More patients are recording their meetings with physicians on smartphones, according to the Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA). Patients generally take this action to ensure they have a record of any important information they receive, but in rare cases, concerns about medical negligence or medical malpractice may play a role. The CMPA, which provides legal defence and liability protection to Canada’s doctors, is recommending that doctors establish recording policies for their practices.

“We’re starting to receive more and more calls about recordings by patients,” Dr. Douglas Bell, managing director of the CMPA, told the CBC.

“If you have a patient coming in and it’s a significant diagnosis, say cancer, basically they’re not really hearing anything you say after the ‘cancer’ word,” he added. “So if they actually have a recording of your advice, that’s actually helpful to the patient.”

Recording conversations for personal use is legal in Canada, even without consent. However, complications can arise if the recording is publicized or posted online. Doctors also have a responsibility to protect their patients’ privacy, so recording in a waiting room could lead to consequences.

Legal or not, though, not all doctors are comfortable with the idea.

“It suggests there’s a gap in trust,” said Sunnybrook Hospital’s Dr. Vik Bansal, to the CBC. “So you have an environment that’s a little bit changed. You’re not sure if there’s a litigious element to it and that kind of sets a negative tone.”

Dr. Bansal’s concerns are not unfounded: in the United States, covert patient recordings have been key evidence in some successful medical malpractice cases. On the other hand, recordings of consultations or surgical procedures may confirm that no malpractice has been committed.

In 2014, Dr. Teodor Grantcharov, a surgeon at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, spoke to the CBC about his practice of recording surgeries in hope of identifying errors and establishing best practices. His system was inspired by the black boxes used by the aviation industry.

“With the data, we will probably be able to identify what are the most dangerous steps of every procedure,” Dr. Grantcharov said. “If we can proactively predict the steps, and if we can prepare our team to maximize their attention and performance during these steps, I think we can eliminate many hazards in the operating room.”

Fewer hazards would, in theory, reduce errors, and minimize instances of medical malpractice to the benefit of both patients and physicians.

If you or a member of your family has suffered a medical injury, contact the medical malpractice lawyers at Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers’ Medical Malpractice Group to learn how we can help. Our experienced, knowledgeable team has been helping injured Ontarians access compensation for decades.

Greg Neinstein