Personalized and long-term electronic informed consent in clinical research: stakeholder views

Personalized and long-term electronic informed consent in clinical research: stakeholder views
Research
Evelien De Sutter, Pascal Borry, David Geerts, Isabelle Huys
BMC Medical Ethics, 31 July 2021; 22(108)
Open Access
Abstract
Background
The landscape of clinical research has evolved over the past decade. With technological advances, the practice of using electronic informed consent (eIC) has emerged. However, a number of challenges hinder the successful and widespread deployment of eIC in clinical research. Therefore, we aimed to investigate the views of various stakeholders on the potential advantages and challenges of eIC.
Methods
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 39 participants from 5 stakeholder groups from across 11 European countries. The stakeholder groups included physicians, patient organization representatives, regulator representatives, ethics committee members, and pharmaceutical industry representatives, and all were involved in clinical research. Interviews were analyzed using the framework method.
Results
Interviewees identified that a powerful feature of eIC is its personalized approach as it may increase participant empowerment. However, they identified several ethical and practical challenges, such as ensuring research participants are not overloaded with information and offering the same options to research participants who would prefer a paper-based informed consent rather than eIC. According to the interviewees, eIC has the potential to establish efficient long-term interactions between the research participants and the research team in order to keep the participants informed during and after the study. Interviewees emphasized that a personal interaction with the research team is of utmost importance and this cannot be replaced by an electronic platform. In addition, interviewees across the stakeholder groups supported the idea of having a harmonized eIC approach across the European Member States.
Conclusions
Interviewees reported a range of design and implementation challenges which needs to be overcome to foster innovation in informing research participants and obtaining their consent electronically. It was considered important that the implementation of eIC runs alongside the face-to-face contact between research participants and the research team. Moreover, interviewees expect that eIC could offer the opportunity to enable a personalized approach and to strengthen continuous communication over time. If successfully implemented, eIC may facilitate the engagement of research participants in clinical research.

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