Ethical Implications of “Mystery Patient Shoppers” and Secretly Recording Conversations With Physicians

Join Our Mailing List

[By Staff Reporters]


With recent advances in technology, smart phones can become recording devices with the touch of a button. This technological capability gives patients and their families the ability to easily and surreptitiously record conversations with physicians. The frequency of such recordings or whether they even occur is unknown. The ubiquity of smart phones, however, suggests the potential for secret recordings to occur.


As of January 2014, 58% of Americans owned a smart phone, including 83% of young adults. Although recording conversations with physicians may provide some benefit for patients and their families, secret recordings can undermine patient-physician relationships and ultimately affect the provision of health care.

Source: Michelle Rodriguez, JD; Jason Morrow, MD, PhD; Ali Seifi, MD. JAMA March 12, 2015. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.2424





In 2014, the Department of Health and Human Services proposed a “mystery shopper” program to gauge primary-care physicians’ timeliness in accepting new patients, according to a notice in the Federal Register. The plan calls for contacting 4,185 primary-care physicians—465 in each of nine as-yet-unnamed states—twice, once by someone pretending to be a new patient who has private insurance and once by someone pretending to be a publicly insured patient.

Scenarios will involve patients with both urgent medical concerns and those requesting a routine medical exam. The purpose of this program is to assess the timeliness with which primary-care services could be provided, gain insight into reasons why availability is lacking, and provide current information on primary-care availability and accessibility.





Ethical or NOT?


Your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Medical Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact:


Comprehensive Financial Planning Strategies for Doctors and Advisors: Best Practices from Leading Consultants and Certified Medical Planners(TM)


2 Responses

  1. When doctors and patients secretly record each other

    A JAMA Viewpoint suggests that doctors should be aware that patients may be surreptitiously recording their conversations.



  2. UK’s SCP States Stance on Patients’ Recording Consultations

    The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists (SCP) has published guidelines on patients recording podiatrists during consultations, both covertly and overtly, in an attempt to tackle the tensions between encouraging transparency and protecting the interests of its members and the efficiency and integrity of their consultations. The SCP’s stance is that podiatrists and practices should not exercise any meaningful prohibition of recording if patients request it. They should invite patients to record consultations for personal use.

    Examples given of appropriate use include sharing the podiatrist’s recommendations with family members. The rationale is that the information is confidential to the patient and that it is for the patient alone to decide with whom it might be shared. There would be nothing, of course, to prevent a third party from attending the consultation with the patient’s consent.

    Source: Amy Bridger, RadcliffesLeBrasseur via

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: