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See Inside March 2011

Uninformed Consent: Tech Solutions for Faulty Permissions in Health Care

Technology can help individuals weigh the risks and benefits of an invasive medical procedure, experts say, but only if doctors and patients keep talking

If more information is required, physicians can call up and print out educational brochures or illustrations from Dialog Medical’s extensive online library. The patient and doctor can study the information together on the screen, or the patient can take it home to review it at his or her own pace with family members. Because the forms become part of the patient’s electronic medical record, anyone on the health team throughout the VA system can easily check to see what sort of consent discussion occurred and answer any further questions.

U.C.S.F.’s Schillinger applauds any attempt to make the informed consent process “more than just a medical Miranda warning.” But he is concerned that there has not been enough independent research to evaluate the effectiveness of various approaches to providing informed consent. Nevertheless, one thing is clear. True face-to-face interactions turn out to be the best medicine.

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