My mother is 84 years old, and like many people her age, she has a host of medical issues. She regularly sees a primary care doctor, a cardiologist, an endocrinologist, a rheumatologist, a neurologist, a gastroenterologist, a dermatologist, and an ophthalmologist. She takes a lot of medication, and typically every few months it is recommended she undergo some type of “new” test or procedure. While I believe that bouncing from one doctor to another is not the best health care model, that’s a topic for another day. Today the question is, “How is she supposed to keep track of all the health care information bombarded at her?”
For those with brain disorders and mental health issues, this barrage of information might be even more difficult to decipher. For example, if you have an anxiety disorder which makes it difficult for you to interact with people, you are already dealing with a deficit when you make your way into your doctor’s office. While your psychiatrist might be explaining why he or she would like to switch your medication, you are focusing on your sweaty palms and hoping a full-blown panic attack isn’t imminent. You leave the appointment not remembering a word that was said. The examples go on and on.
So what’s the solution? Of course, taking a trusted family member or friend along to medical appoints can be beneficial. I accompany my mom whenever I can, but she does have to go to many appointments alone. When I do attend appointments with her, I try to write down what the doctor says to try to avoid confusion later. Still, there always seems to be questions after the fact – even when I take notes. Did he mean I should do this or not? Did she say I should take that extra medication at bedtime or in the morning? While what the doctor says is usually clear at the time, somehow once we leave his or her office, confusion sets in.
Not surprisingly, with the capabilities of smartphones, many people have begun recording their medical appointments, both with and without their doctor’s consent. Is this legal? Well, it depends where you live, and it can get quite complicated.
This article published on July 10, 2017 in The Journal of the American Medical Association discusses the legal issues as well as the pros, cons, and future of recording medical appointments. Some topics addressed include how HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) does or does not fit into taped conversations. There is also discussion of if, how, and with whom these recordings should be shared. The article concludes that clear policies need to be developed to make the use of digital recordings a positive experience for all involved.
I realize some health professionals are hesitant to be recorded, but personally, I think it’s a great idea. Patients can avoid confusion and are able to share information correctly with loved ones. Doctors will likely receive fewer follow-up calls and emails to clarify what happened in an appointment, and most importantly, the patient will be able to more easily follow the doctor’s orders.
I think having an actual audio record of a medical appointment for any health-care issue is a win-win situation, though I’d certainly recommend being open with your doctor about your desire to tape your meeting. Whether you are seeking help for your physical or mental health, understanding your issues and how best to move forward is of the utmost importance. Recording your appointments can be a big step toward that goal.