Digital Informed Consent: Modernising Information Sharing in Surgery to Empower Patients

Digital Informed Consent: Modernising Information Sharing in Surgery to Empower Patients
Original Scientific Report
Simon L. Parsons, Prita Daliya, Phil Evans, Dileep N. Lobo
World Journal of Surgery, 3 December 2022
Open Access
Abstract
Background
Despite the 2015 Montgomery Ruling highlighting key requisites for informed consent, little has changed to modernise data-sharing and documentation of the consent process. It can be difficult to gauge patient understanding and address all patient concerns in time-limited appointments. We aimed to assess the feasibility of a digital information-sharing platform to support a move towards a digital informed consent process.
Methods
All adult patients referred to a single centre with symptomatic gallstones were invited to use a digital information-sharing platform to support the informed consent process prior to their first surgical clinic appointment. The platform provided patients with multimedia information on gallstones and available treatment options. It recorded the time spent accessing information, asked patients multiple choice questions (MCQs) to allow a self-test of understanding, documented a summary medical history, and allowed free text for patient questions. This information was summarised into a clinical report to support outpatient clinic consultations.
Results
Of the 349 patients registered to use the digital platform, 203 (58.2%) [165 (81.3%) female, mean age 47.6 years (range 19–84 years)] completed all modules necessary to generate a clinical report. Some 130 patients (64.0%) answered all 10 MCQs correctly and spent a mean of 18.7 min (range 3–88 min) reading the consent information. Most patient-reported medical histories were deemed to be accurate.
Conclusion
Despite difficulties with access, resulting in drop-outs, patients welcomed the opportunity to receive information digitally, prior to their consultation. Patients described feeling empowered and better informed to be involved in decision-making.

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