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article imageDigital medical visits: Risks and benefits

By Tim Sandle     Jun 25, 2018 in Health
It's estimated that one in ten people record their consultation with their doctor. A new report recommends that doctors should embrace this, although both parties need to weight up the good and bad points.
Medical researchers, from The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice, have recently analyzed the benefits of digital recordings of healthcare visits. They have concluded that it is time for a new model of health data ownership. Moreover, while there are clear advantages the researchers are cognizant to the potential cybersecurity threats.
Health data is easier to collect and more of it is entering the hands of the patient. Patients can record conversations and they can also collect statistics about their health condition, using apps like Apple Health. Health data is also being voluminously collected by developers, where, depending on privacy settings, health data from users is transmitted to companies for their own analysis or sale to technology or pharmaceutical firms.
Some medics currently encourage patients to make recordings. The authors of the new study cite a neurological institute which offers patients video recordings of their visits, which can be viewed via a secure website. They also use the example of Dr. James Ryan, a local medic based in Michigan, who offers to record visits with his patients. Meanwhile, Google and Amazon are developing platforms that make use of recordings of doctor-patient conversations so that electronic health records can be populated.
The researchers discuss the benefits of digital recordings, such as the ability for them to be automatically coded and tagged. One advantage is taking away from physicians the drudgery of completing records. For the patient, there is the advantage of not forgetting what was said during a consultation and being able to view or listen to recordings later.
However, there are risks which the authors draw out. These are grouped into consent procedures, privacy, and cybersecurity, and pose significant issues that some kind of regulation is necessary. Here one of the researchers, Glyn Elwyn, says: ""We're going to need to create a new model of personal health data ownership, similar to banking records...But, even if we did that, there are still implications for privacy and cybersecurity; and the question is do we want to leave that solely in the hands of for-profit companies?"
The research has been published in the British Medical Journal, with the academic paper titled "Digital clinical encounters."
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