Consultation recording app will give patients a good take home message

By David Rowley

26 Mar 2019

Amelia Hyatt

A smartphone app that allows patients to make an audio recording of their medical consultation will promote better understanding of complex information and could be ready for use in around a year, according to its Victorian developers.

Amelia Hyatt, the senior researcher behind the Second Ears app  says it is nearing the end of its clinical testing at the Peter Mac Cancer Centre in Melbourne.

The app is designed to help patients manage the large amount of information they are given by doctors at their hospital appointments, which can be confusing and overwhelming, especially if people are feeling anxious, upset, or have been given some bad news.

“Giving patients audio-recordings of their hospital consultations has been successful and beneficial for English-speaking oncology patients, particularly in improving understanding and recall of information given,” the Second Ears team says.

“[Audio recordings] also allow patients to assume a significantly more active role in subsequent consultations and in treatment decision making, and provide patients with a means to initiate treatment discussions with family.”

What sets the app apart from a patient simply recording a consultation on their smartphone is that it is designed to send a copy of any recording to the health service in question. The consultation record is stored and can become a valid part of the patient’s medical record with all the rights that entails, including access under Freedom of Information laws, though the primary intention is that the consultation recording is kept on the patient’s phone to assist them in information recall.

Amelia Hyatt says patients have been testing Second Ears ‘live’ within the hospital with oncologists, nurses and allied health professionals, and evaluation of that data is currently underway to help implement use of the app in hospital settings.

Second Ears has been created in partnership with Melbourne-based developer Wave Digital, and “key feedback” from both patients and clinicians has been “overwhelmingly supportive”, said Ms Hyatt.

“Most doctors can really see the benefits for the patients, particularly those diagnosed with something like cancer or managing chronic disease and they think it will improve patient care,” she told the limbic.

And patients seemed equally positive, seeing the app as a type of “safety net” that helped improve information and medication recall, but which could also be shared with family and friends.

“We don’t go through health situations in isolation,” she said, “and certainly people in the older population have their children, who are sometimes interstate, heavily involved in their care and the app helps in that”.

Patients using the app will need to advise the doctor they are recording the consultation – as recording without permission could be considered unlawful.

Peter Mac is liaising with Melbourne University School of Law to prepare medico-legal advice for clinical health professionals around recordings of consultations, said Ms Hyatt.

“What we do know is if a doctor is delivering adequate patient care then a consultation would be protected,” she said.

But if a patient was to record a consultation without permission, then it might be considered unlawful, she added.

Ruanne Brell, Senior Solicitor with medical indemnity provider Avant said recording of consultations was a complex area of law with different legislation in each State and Territory.

“We are seeing providers considering how they best use audio recordings to assist in the care of their patients,” she told the limbic.

“Issues such as consent, storage, and access to the recording should be considered before using recording systems.”

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