Intended for healthcare professionals


Digital clinical encounters

BMJ 2018; 361 doi: (Published 14 May 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;361:k2061

This article has a correction. Please see:

  1. Glyn Elwyn, professor1,
  2. Paul J Barr, assistant professor2,
  3. Sheri Piper, patient2
  1. 1Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, Lebanon NH 03756, USA
  2. 2Ryan Family Practice, Ludington, MI, USA
  1. Correspondence to: G Elwyn glynelwyn{at}

Managed safely, digital recordings could transform healthcare

Many patients already record clinical encounters, usually on smart phones.1 Data on the prevalence of this behaviour are being collected and already indicate that it occurs in most clinical settings.2 UK patients are not breaking the law when they record their visits; in other countries, the law might be more complex.3 Whatever legal frame might exist, we predict that more and more patients will make a digital recording of clinical conversations and that health systems will follow. In the advent of powerful artificial intelligence (AI) the broad implementation of audiorecording in healthcare could greatly benefit both patients and clinicians, but risks also exist, and clear principles to guide the collection and use of recordings must be established from the outset.

Patients make recordings so that they can relisten to the clinic discussion and share it with a family member or care giver. They can revisit and clarify medical information that is often forgotten, check that they have clearly communicated important information to their clinician, and monitor agreed treatment goals before their next visit.4 Few patients are motivated by an intent …

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