I dont think that I’ve ever thought so much about informed consent as I did today. I’ve always had the self-perception that I communicate well with patients, especially around planned procedures in the emergency department where I work. After today’s discussion, I recognize that I am doing a fine job, but I can also do so much better.
Informed consent is a shared decision making opportunity between patient and physician. At its core, informed consent is a conversation with the goal of allowing the patient to ask questions and hopefully come away with a clear understanding of the procedure to be performed, as well and the risks and benefits of the procedure. Procedures, diagnostic tests, and medications can all be conversations that are pursued with patients under the vigilance of informed consent.
While the conversation is the essential element of informed consent, the informed consent paperwork can serve as both a checklist for the provider and a physical reminder to the patient that we are discussing potential harm and the physician will need the patient’s approval before pursuing any potentially risky treatment plans.
A discussion about informed consent to the level of detail that we had today needs to be part of all residency training in the first days of orientation and as refresher training later on in training. All physicians can, and should, do much better in providing informed consent.