How the Electronic Patient Consent Process Can Help Physicians and Advance Healthcare
As it has done for most industries and sectors, technology has come to reshape the entire healthcare ecosystem. The pandemic has particularly catalyzed this global and lasting change.
Whether it’s patients making inquiries and referrals to healthcare services, doctors performing diagnoses and treatments, or hospitals managing patients and the entire workflow, there is a tangible change in the country’s health care delivery system. With increased smartphone and internet penetration among Indians even in small towns and Tier II and III cities, bolstered by foundational infrastructure in place, the so-called winds of change are sweeping wide swaths from the country.
The use of electronic consent solutions by clinicians and physicians before performing surgery on a patient has become of great importance to healthcare professionals and their patients. This is relevant for all types of surgeries, whether major or minor.
Unlike using traditional paper-based consent documents, the entire electronic consent process dramatically changes the relationship dynamics when it comes to physicians and their patients. Needless to say, adopting electronic consent solutions has become a smarter choice for physicians to make today.
Why is adopting e-consent solutions a smarter choice for physicians?
The three Cs essential to the doctor-patient relationship
First, opting for e-consent solutions offers great value in terms of the three Cs – clarity, understandability and consistency in communication – all of which are extremely critical in any doctor-patient conversation. This is especially important when a patient or his relatives have to make a decision on such a serious problem as an upcoming surgery.
Clarity takes care of openness and transparency, covering all the pros and cons of impending surgery in full detail.
On the other hand, intelligibility concerns the language and the format of this conversation. Essentially, the onus is on the clinician to break down complex medical terms and jargon into easy-to-understand language and common idioms and phrases so that patients understand the full implications of going ahead with surgery, or otherwise.
Consistency, in part, refers to honesty and stability in thinking and decision-making regarding the upcoming procedure on the part of the doctor. This also implies the durability of the exchange given that it is a question of leaving a trace or a recording if necessary later.
Effectively implements informed consent
Although not part of the three Cs, the centrality of informed consent is linked to them and is an integral part of the path of doctor-patient conversation before the latter gives the green light to the surgical procedure.
Remember that from the physician’s point of view, the patient’s solicited and acquired consent must be of an informed nature. This means that the patient must fully understand the seriousness, scope and implications of a particular surgery as well as the risks and benefits of not undertaking that surgery.
Thus, it is only when a patient gives informed consent that this consent is valid in the eyes of the law. Any consent obtained through misrepresentation, falsification, deliberate obfuscation or even withholding of information would nullify its legally sanctity and would go against the very spirit of informed consent.
Thus, for the doctor, the e-consent solutions by their very durable and indelible nature rule out all this and offer enhanced security in the event of possible post-operative medico-legal fallout.
Strong defense against future forensic cases
Sometimes, even when the clinician has accumulated a long experience in a specific surgical procedure and has maintained an unblemished career record without any unfavorable reports on their resume, an operation can still go wrong. Even when the doctor works with the noblest intention, sincerity and utmost skill, an operation can still go wrong on any given day.
In such an unfortunate turn of events, electronic consent solutions can prove to be a godsend for a physician.
In a study done six years ago, there was a 110% increase in the number of medical negligence cases in India every year. This increase in cases naturally implies the increase in medico-legal complaints against doctors. Reflecting the same trend, media reported in 2019 that a whopping 43 lakh medical-legal cases were pending in different consumer courts across the country.
Physicians are not only facing an increase in forensic cases, they are also increasingly subject to physical violence in the workplace even when they are not at fault. No less than 133 cases of violence against on-call doctors have been reported in a year of the pandemic.
Doctors can keep pace with tech-savvy patients
At a time when Internet technologies have made information accessible to everyone in unprecedented ways, patients have become increasingly familiar with medical issues, including basic surgical procedures, instruments and devices. They are also more proactive than ever and keep track of their health data through self-diagnosis and monitoring devices.
For these new digitally-savvy patients, it is important for healthcare partners (HCPs) to increasingly use electronic consent tools and solutions. Otherwise, a patient or their relatives may use their self-taught knowledge to unfairly target the physician for a failed procedure, but through no fault of the physician.
Using multimedia formats including text, images, audio, video and graphics, e-consent tools not only bring more consistency and order to unorganized and messy paper documents, but address also uncertainties and ambiguities surrounding paper documents. consent documents.
E-consent solutions should be user-friendly in form and design, with sufficient safeguards for privacy and security of patient data. Today, there are specialist companies that offer such niche and quality consent solutions to hospitals and healthcare professionals, thus contributing in their own way to the emerging story of digitization of healthcare in India.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)