Efforts By US Hospitals To Improve Informed Consent Processes

Armen Hareyan's picture

The WallStreet Journal on Wednesday examined how U.S. hospitals have begun toimprove their informed consent processes amid "mounting concern aboutpatient safety and lawsuits arising from botched communications."According to the Journal, researchers have found that "mostpatients don't read the forms they sign before undergoing surgery or medicaltreatment." In addition, more than "half of those who do read theforms don't understand them, and only a quarter of forms include all of thedata patients need to make an informed decision," the Journalreports.

In response, some hospitals have begun "offering explanatory videos anddiagrams" to patients when they complete consent forms, as well as"translating medical lingo into simple English" and "offeringmaterials in other languages" to explain medical procedures and provideinformation about alternative treatments, according to the Journal.Some hospitals also have begun to use new technologies, such as onlinedatabases that calculate the risk of medical procedures for patients beforethey complete consent forms and electronic forms to address problems with lostpaper forms that can delay procedures and increase costs.

CMS recently issued new guidelines that requirehospitals to develop "patient-friendly" informed consent processes,and facilities that do not comply could lose their eligibility to participatein Medicare. The Joint Commission, which accredits hospitalsnationwide, also has advocated improvements to the informed consent processesused by the facilities (Landro, Wall Street Journal, 2/6).

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