Adding dynamic consent to a longitudinal cohort study: A qualitative study of EXCEED participant perspectives

Adding dynamic consent to a longitudinal cohort study: A qualitative study of EXCEED participant perspectives
Research Article
Susan E. Wallace & José Miola
BMC Medical Ethics, 9 February 2021; 22(12)
Open Access
Abstract
Background
Dynamic consent has been proposed as a process through which participants and patients can gain more control over how their data and samples, donated for biomedical research, are used, resulting in greater trust in researchers. It is also a way to respond to evolving data protection frameworks and new legislation. Others argue that the broad consent currently used in biobank research is ethically robust. Little empirical research with cohort study participants has been published. This research investigated the participants’ opinions of adding a dynamic consent interface to their existing study.
Methods
Adult participants in the Extended Cohort for E-health, Environment and DNA (EXCEED) longitudinal cohort study who are members of the EXCEED Public and Participant Engagement Group were recruited. Four focus groups were conducted and analysed for thematic content. Discussion topics were derived from a review of the current literature on dynamic consent.
Results
Participants were in favour of many aspects of a dynamic consent interface, such as being able to update their information, add additional data to their records and choose withdrawal options. They were supportive provided it was simple to use and not intrusive. Participants expressed a markedly high level of trust in the study and its investigators and were unanimously happy with their current participation. No strong support was found for adding a dynamic consent interface to EXCEED.
Conclusions
Trust in the study researchers was the strongest theme found. Openness and good data security were needed to retain their trust. While happy to discuss dynamic consent, participants were satisfied with the current study arrangements. There were indications that changing the study might unnecessarily disturb their trust. This raised the question of whether there are contexts where dynamic consent is more appropriate than others. This study was limited by the small number of participants who were committed to the study and biased towards it. More research is needed to fully understand the potential impact of adding a dynamic consent interface to an existing cohort study.

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