Just before coming to the AELPS conference in Napa Valley, I upgraded my cell phone. As I was setting up my phone, I hastily clicked through the buttons, checking the box to note that I had “read” the Terms and Conditions. Companies have gotten so used to their customers not reading these long Terms and Conditions that they don’t even show it to you during the main set-up; rather, you have to click on a link that takes you to a separate page to read them. Both the customer and company just go through this charade without a second thought.
While watching the film about Michael Skolnik, I realized that the “charade” feeling has permeated into our informed consent process. If healthcare workers minimize the process of informed consent to a mere formality, our patients will not be able to use that time to truly think about the risks, benefits, or consequences of procedures. The excessive use of scientific terminology in forms meant for non-science people makes patients nervous to speak up and ask questions at a time when they are already stressed. I loved the idea that informed consent should be an ongoing process rather than one step in a checklist.
Talking with the patient and his/her family multiple times gives them multiple opportunities to catch everything we say, instead of hoping that they got all the important details in one hurried, stressful lecture. The solutions we have discussed during the past two days may take more time out of our already busy schedules, but I hope that a truly informative informed consent can make the patient more comfortable with his/her decision and make the healthcare workers more confident that we are working towards the patient’s best interests.