How to make it possible to record medical appointments

Seeing a healthcare professional is an essential part of the healthcare journey, whether in person or through the now commonplace telehealth service. During these relatively short interactions, a lot of important, sometimes life-changing information is shared.

However, research has shown that people forget most of what they are told at medical appointments. This means they might not understand their illness very well or have trouble remembering important health or treatment information, such as how much medicine to take or how to prepare for surgery.

Being able to listen to a recording of a consultation can help close family members better help and support a patient. Photo: Getty Images

This is especially true when people hear upsetting news, such as when they are diagnosed with cancer or another serious illness, or when they have to undergo major treatment such as major surgery. Not having a clear memory of what was discussed can limit people’s understanding and ability to participate in important decisions about their treatment and care.


Of more than thirty years of research, we know that people find it useful to be able to listen to an audio recording of their health visit later. Above all, recordings work well for improving people’s recall and understanding information given to them by the health professional.

Being able to return the recording of a consultation, for example, to close family members, or even to another doctor such as the patient’s general practitioner, also means that those around the patient can better understand him, help him and support him.

Healthcare professionals also appreciate and support the use of consultation records for the benefits it can bring to their patients. The record was found for builds patient confidence in the healthcare professional and makes them feel more supported and more satisfied with their care.

To better understand people’s preferences, specifically how and why people log their medical appointments, our team of law and health researchers launched a new short and anonymous survey.

The findings will help explain why some people make recordings when they see their doctor or other healthcare professional, who they then want to share these recordings with, and how. Our aim is to gather information about this often hidden practice for the first time in Australia, to help inform the design of new registration policies and technologies.

Research shows that people forget most of what they are told during medical appointments, and therefore may have trouble remembering important health or treatment information. Photo: Getty Images


Previously, studies of recording encounters used tapes and clumsy technology. Now, smartphone voice recorders make it easy for anyone to record their healthcare consultation, and some medical professionals are encouraging their patients to do so for the above reasons.

There are also new apps designed to allow patients to record their appointments, many of which include additional functions, such as the automatic generation of written transcriptions of consultations or the highlighting of key medical terms and links to sources. reliable health information.

At Peter MacCallum Cancer Center they develop the Second Ears App to make it easier for patients to record their visits. It uploads a copy of the recording to the patient’s electronic medical record before the patient can listen to it.

It is also known, from anecdotal evidence and research conducted in the UK and the WE, that people often record their consultations without telling the healthcare professional. For example, 26% of people who complete investigation in the UK said they secretly recorded a visit to a healthcare professional or knew someone who had.


While secret recording may still provide the patient benefits we mentioned earlier, it could be considered as unfair as risk of harming the doctor-patient relationship and has some medical professionals concerned that patients want to “trip” them.

Some new apps allow patients to record their appointments and automatically generate written transcripts. Photo: Getty Images

Although overseas research has explored how often people have recorded their consultations (both covertly and openly) and whether they wish to do so in the future, the situation in Australia is much less clear as no one has collected this information before.

This means that efforts by health services such as the Peter Mac, or even by individual health professionals to promote the recording of consultations, go ‘in the dark’. They lack the information they need to design new registration technologies and the policy framework to support them.

Our new survey aims to fill this gap by soliciting as many people as possible to complete it and share their current healthcare recording practices and preferences.

But in addition to technological considerations, there are many legal and ethical questions about recording consultations. Worries about this, as well as the rights of healthcare professionals and patients to make and share recordings, could make people hesitant.

This has led us to engage in further research and far-reaching conversations in the spheres of law and regulation, clinical practice, and with patient engagement.


Our work has examined what doctors and patients think of a consultation recording app and what Australian law allows and requires – particularly in terms of consent to make a recording and to play a recording to others.

Changes in policy and practice would allow more patients and healthcare professionals to experience the known benefits of recorded encounters. Photo: Getty Images

Our legal research revealed that applicable law in Australia is complex, with significant differences between jurisdictions, making it all the more important that new technologies enabling the recording of consultations be explicit about the terms and conditions of recording and subsequent use.

Our goal is that this engagement and research will lead to changes in policy and practice so that more patients and healthcare professionals can experience the known benefits of recording encounters. But we must do so in an ethical way and respond to the needs and concerns of everyone involved.

The registration of health consultations is subject to a June 1 event at the University of Melbourne. The event will launch a new University initiative, the Collaborative for Better Health and Regulation. It is a forum to bring together the views of clinicians, advocates, regulators and patients. Members of the public are invited to attend this event.

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About Charles D. Goolsby

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