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Are there better ways for patients to get informed?

One of the most critical protections patients have when it comes to their care is informed consent. We examined this very topic in a previous blog post, which can be read in full here. Essentially, we noted that patients have the right to deny or approve courses of medical treatment based on the information they receive from their doctor. 

However, it is how patients are given the information they need that has some researchers wondering if there is room for improvement. According to one recent study, for example, it may be more effective for patients to receive medical information from sources like videos on iPads in addition to discussions with their doctor.

The study recruited 80 people who were about to undergo the same operation. About half of them discussed the procedure with their doctor while the other group watch a video on an iPad about the procedure. The groups then switched methods.

Researchers found that watching an educational video on the procedure improved the understanding of the operation by more than 15 percent for participants.

It has been suggested that people find it easier to learn from a video rather than or in addition to consultations with their doctor for a variety of reasons. Patients might feel intimidated by doctors or overwhelmed by medical terminology used; there may not be enough time for patients to ask clarifying questions or ask a doctor to repeat information.

It may not be surprising, then, that more than 80 percent of patients surveyed prefer watching an educational video to consulting their doctor.

However, personal interactions with a doctor are a crucial aspect of informed consent because they give patients the opportunity to interact and ask questions, which is lacking when it comes to educational videos.

Rather than relying on just one way of educating patients, this study shows that combining two channels can increase patient comprehension and ultimately help people make decisions related to their care.

Unfortunately, some patients don't get both options; some don't even get one comprehensive explanation of a particular procedure or course of treatment. If and when the latter situation occurs, there may be grounds to argue that a doctor acted without a patient's informed consent. Filing a civil claim under these circumstances can be crucial.

Source: Medical Daily, "iPads May Be Useful Addition To The Informed Consent Of Patients Undergoing Surgery," Ed Cara, March 13, 2016

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