Sorry Works!

Sorry Works! Blog

Making Disclosure A Reality For Healthcare Organizations 

Question from Road: Anyone Taping this Conversation

Question from Road: Anyone Taping this Conversation? We've all heard multiple tales of patients and family members secretly taping conversations with doctors and nurses. The lady had the recorder hidden in her purse, or stuffed in her bra! This fear of taping has been somewhat heightened with more and more disclosure conversations happening. "But are they going to tape what we say?" is a fearful question asked by many clinicians.

What are you going to do?

Here's what you can’t do: Ask if people are taping the conversation, or, if you see the tape recorder ask the patient or family to turn it off. To do so suggests you are being less than candid in your comments. Telling someone to turn off a tape recorder is like asking the lawyer to leave the meeting or cancelling the meeting because a lawyer showed up....or trying to the limit who from the family can attend the meeting. Any such behavior is controlling and manipulative, and destroys the very trust you are trying to rebuild with patients and families.

So, what do you do?

First, when you go into a disclosure meeting - whether it is to empathize and promise a review, or apologize after a review has shown an error - you should just assume a tape recorder is running. We're not going to be put off by the presence of a tape recorder, note pad, or even a lawyer. We're proud for anyone to hear or see our ethics in action. But, remember, say only what you know when you know it to be 100% true. Never jump the gun. Don't speculate or joust. Empathize quickly, but only apologize after the review is complete. When you empathize quickly but wait for the review before apologizing then you should be happy for anyone to hear or see your ethics in action.

Second, if you do know for a fact a tape recorder is running - perhaps the family plops it on the table! - you may consider using your own tape recorder. But, this is not done to be confrontational. Instead, consider saying the following:

"It's absolutely OK for you to have a tape recorder, and feel free to share the tape recording with anyone you desire. We are an open book. Since you are taping, we’' like to have our own tape recording of this meeting for our own records...."

Having your own recording of the meeting can alleviate tension and doubt on your side ("How exactly did that part of the meeting go? How exactly did the family react?"), and also eliminate any misunderstandings between both parties.