Digital technology in informed consent for surgery: systematic review

Digital technology in informed consent for surgery: systematic review
Aoife Kiernan, Brian Fahey, Shaista S Guraya, Fiona Boland, Daragh Moneley, Frank Doyle, Denis W Harkin
British Journal of Surgery, 24 January 2023
Open Access
Informed consent is an ethical and legal requirement in healthcare and supports patient autonomy to make informed choices about their own care. This review explores the impact of digital technology for informed consent in surgery.
A systematic search of EBSCOhost (MEDLINE/CINAHL), Embase, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials and Web of Science was performed in November 2021. All RCTs comparing outcomes of both digital and non-digital (standard) consent in surgery were included. Each included study underwent an evaluation of methodological quality using the Cochrane risk of bias (2.0) tool. Outcomes assessed included comprehension, level of satisfaction and anxiety, and feasibility of digital interventions in practice.
A total of 40 studies, across 13 countries and 15 surgical specialties were included in this analysis. Digital consent interventions used active patient participation and passive patient participation in 15 and 25 studies respectively. Digital consent had a positive effect on early comprehension in 21 of 30 (70 per cent) studies and delayed comprehension in 9 of 20 (45 per cent) studies. Only 16 of 38 (42 per cent) studies assessed all four elements of informed consent: general information, risks, benefits, and alternatives. Most studies showed no difference in satisfaction or anxiety. A minority of studies reported on feasibility of digital technology in practice.
Digital technologies in informed consent for surgery were found to have a positive effect on early comprehension, without any negative effect on satisfaction or anxiety. It is recommended that future studies explore the feasibility of these applications for vulnerable patient groups and busy surgical practice.

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