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Livestream from the exam room: Navigating patient privacy and new technology

 “The needs of the patient come first.”

This Mayo Clinic value drives our mission. It also drives our response to the use of live video in the exam room. We’ll explain.

Today, patients have a variety of live video and livestreaming options available to use during their medical appointments. In some situations, this technology is incredibly helpful for both the patient and the provider. For example, a patient might have to travel solo for an important doctor’s appointment. The news and information they receive can be overwhelming and difficult to process alone. Including someone from their support network through video chat (ie. FaceTime, Google Hangout, Skype), can provide comfort, a second set of ears to listen and understand the news and options, and offer an opportunity for the guest to ask important questions on behalf of patient.

Conversely, using certain livestreaming platforms at inappropriate times can put patients and providers at risk. The privacy of surrounding patients might be compromised if a patient chooses to stream from a public area such as the waiting room or lobby. Livestreaming from within a private room can limit the provider and patient from fully engaging in a deeply personal and highly sensitive conversation that might be necessary to best assist the patient.

In this era of livestream technology, it is critical that healthcare providers are equipped to identify and respond to potentially hazardous live video situations. If your institution has a policy regarding livestream or live video, follow that. If there is no policy or the policy leaves room for provider discretion, here are a few suggestions to help navigate this issue.

  1. Pay attention to what the patient is carrying. If they have an open laptop, phone or tablet – take note.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It is for their safety. “Hi, who do we have joining us at your appointment today?” or “I notice you have Facebook open, are we live?” can help start the conversation about who and how they are filming.
  3. If you believe patient privacy might be compromised if they continue to film, guide the conversation to help them understand your concerns. Consider acknowledging their desire to film and offer a solution: “I understand you’d like to share your appointment with your Facebook followers. You are welcome to invite someone to join this conversation but I am concerned we won’t be able to talk as openly as necessary if this is livestreamed publicly. Is there someone specifically we can call to join us?”

By focusing on the patient’s best interest, and developing a watchful and responsive attitude towards technology, we can put the needs of the patient first without compromising privacy.

Have you encountered this situation at your facility yet? How have you handled it?

Taryn Offenbacher, a Communications Specialist at Mayo Clinic in Arizona, is a member of the Social and Digital Innovation Team

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The needs of the patient come first. Especially in the exam room.
Live streaming in a clinical setting can seriously jeopardize patient privacy.
Live streaming from the exam room is a thorny subject. Here's how you can navigate it.

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