Readability of the informed consent forms in Flanders using the Douma index: Analyzing the documents that help patients make decisions
María del Valle Ramírez-Durán, María del Valle Coronado-Vázquez, María Isabel Mariscal-Crespo
Clinical Ethics, 9 July 2020
Informed consent forms have been useful in clinical practice and they constitute a part of the shared decision making in the informed consent process. They provide information to patients about clinical procedures and techniques. They also act as a remainder of the information discussed after the medical interview. Sometimes these documents are not readable to everybody. Belgian law specifies that all information that patients receive has to be proportionate verbally, but written information is also handled. The present research analyzes the readability of the Flemish informed consent forms located in the webs of all General Hospitals using a simple random sample of 75 informed consent forms.
By using the Douma tool, which bases its analysis in the length of words and sentences, the readability mean of the sample was 46, level “Difficult”. The 59% of them had a difficult level. The 11% were normal. It is a fact, then, that the 59% of the informed consent forms evaluated in this study are not suitable for everybody in Flanders, especially those people with low literacy. There were some researches made in other countries that agreed with these results. Written clinical information was poorly written so the informed consent forms were not working helping patients to recall information nor helping patients to become a part in the shared decision making about their health. The use of readability formulas represented a simple way to discriminate those informed consent forms that had normal readability scores from those that should be adapted.