Informed consent is what doctors and researchers must get from patients and research subjects before starting clinical trials or any kind of invasive medical treatment. "But how many patients truly understand the alternatives or the risks and benefits of the test or treatment they are undergoing? Are patients really being informed?" asks Scientific American's Deborah Franklin. In order to "fill the gap," many medical centers are now using technology — interactive computer programs aimed at targeted patient audiences — to replace the consent forms of yesteryear. Some of these programs can even be watched by patients at home with family members present. The effectiveness of the approach is still being tested, Franklin says. But researchers say that the approach will never be truly beneficial unless doctors and patients start communicating more efficiently. The new informed consent programs are also aiming to get doctors to talk about "benefits and risks much earlier in the diagnostic and treatment process so that patients can make truly informed choices about their own health care," Franklin adds.
Technology to the Rescue?
Mar 15, 2011