Questions about data ownership mount as physicians increasingly record patient visits

Recording medical conversations between physicians and patients can alleviate problematic record-keeping and improve patient treatment adherence. However, the growing practice is being both eased and complicated by smartphone technology and artificial intelligence, prompting questions about safe data usage, according to STAT.

Here are five things to know about patient visit recordings and data ownership.

1. Patients are more frequently recording physician sessions on their smartphones to play back later. It's not clear how many physicians partake in clinical conversation recordings regularly.

2. The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston launched a program in 2009 that allows patients to take home digital recorders with tapings of their visits for personal or caregiver reference. Once the university donates the recorder, it belongs to the patient, which omits any confusion over who owns the data, according to the report.

3. New voice recognition technologies from companies like Google and Amazon, which increasingly rely on artificial intelligence, are complicating the data ownership question. Paul Barr, PhD, a researcher and professor at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice in Lebanon, N.H., helms a project that aims to build a system enabled by artificial intelligence to routinely record audio from physicians' visits. The Open Recording Automated Logging System project will use natural language processing to flag important pieces of the conversation for patients, such as "diagnosis" or "medication protocols," according to STAT. The ORALS system lets patients record physician conversations on their smartphones and share the transcript with family members through a secure server.

4. The technology clearly offers several benefits for physicians and patients. However, the increased use of artificial intelligence-enabled systems comes as policy surrounding cybersecurity and patient privacy lags, according to STAT. Some risks include storing data on smartphones, which may only be secured as well as a person secures their phone. In addition, if a third-party vendor gained access to the sensitive information, abuses could occur.

5. "We really need policies and regulations to be clear on this," Dr. Barr told STAT. "One person or a small research group in a single institution can't think through all the possibilities and pitfalls. We need to convene a broader group of stakeholders from all walks of life."

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