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Acceptability and design of video-based research on healthcare communication: Evidence and recommendations

Methods and findings

We gathered and integrated research findings and written guidance relating to video-based research. There are three main areas of concern that are examined in the literature: coercing people into being recorded, affecting the communication amongst them, and compromising their anonymity and confidentiality. We concluded that these concerns are valid and should be taken seriously when designing a study. Importantly though, the available evidence indicates that this form of video-based research can be ethically acceptable, provided adequate measures are taken to minimise disruption of the healthcare interactions being recorded, and to protect participants’ safety and autonomy.  

In the paper, we discuss the research evidence about the risks of video-based research on communication, and summarise prior guidance on how to minimise these risks. We provide detailed recommendations on designing acceptable, robust, safe research. The recommendations should be adapted to the specifics of each setting and study. It seems to us that video-based research calls for ‘situated ethical judgment’: decisions rest on the type of setting, patient populations, activities being recorded, and intended uses of the data. Our recommendations provide a framework for systematically considering these matters. The recommendations are in Table 2 here.


High quality video-recordings are the essential ingredient for rigorous research on human communication – we hope our recommendations will help researchers design ethically sound research protocols and build persuasive arguments about the importance and acceptability of video-based research aiming to better understand communication in healthcare.  We also hope the recommendations will help ethics committee members in their deliberations on video-based studies of healthcare communication.     

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Acknowledgements to: 

Loughborough University, University of Nottingham, LOROS Hospice Leicester, The Health Foundation and the NIHR. The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NHS, the National Institute for Health Research, Health Education England or the Department of Health and Social Care.