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Informed consent provides a powerful opportunity to build trust between the patient and clinician while supporting patient autonomy, transparency and shared decision-making.1 ,2 However, it is often relegated to a perfunctory task, performed as an ethical-legal formality minutes prior to a procedure.3–5 As such, basic elements necessary for achieving the espoused goals of informed consent may be missing or suboptimally implemented, undermining patient-centred, high-quality decision-making. The types and extent of gaps in quality have not been systematically studied, limiting efforts to improve implementation. Our aim was to assess variation in quality of informed consent documents associated with three commonly performed cardiovascular procedures: left heart catheterisation, transesophageal echocardiography and implantation of a cardioverter defibrillator. We focused on basic elements of consent documents with the goal of illuminating opportunities to establish minimum standards for informed consent.
Between 1 April and 30 June 2014, we conducted a medical chart review of informed consent documents associated with three electively performed cardiovascular procedures performed at a large, urban hospital: left heart catheterisations (not associated with acute coronary syndrome or in the context of another acute illness; n=79), transesophageal echocardiography (n=39) and implantation of a cardioverter defibrillator (n=36). We developed an abstraction tool to rate basic components of consent documents that a reasonable patient would deem important for decision-making, derived from reliable sources that patients could access on the internet. The final tool assessed presentation (legibility of handwritten information, assessed subjectively as ‘legible’, ‘barely …
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