Shorten consent forms to enhance patient understanding

Long, jargon-filled consent forms, not surprisingly, may result in patients not fully understanding their care, according to a Johns Hopkins University study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Researchers looked at 124 informed consent documents of HIV/AIDs research patients and found that the median length of the form was 22 pages. In addition, the forms required at least a ninth-grade reading level, and confidentiality sections required a 12-grade reading level. The authors recommended that consent forms have simpler language.

The recent stent scandal raised questions about patients' informed consent. When Dr. Mark Midei of St. Joseph Medical Center in Maryland was convicted of performing unnecessary heart stents, many wonder whether his patients fully understood the medical procedures, its necessity, and effects, according to an editorial in The Baltimore Sun. In addition, the case highlighted the responsibility of informed content on the physician, the patient, and the organization. St. Joseph's CEO Jeffrey K. Norman also recently announced he is resigning at the end of this month.

"Consent forms are extremely long, exceeding recommendations for how much information readily can be processed. Networks should consider providing shorter consent templates, consistent with federal recommendations," states the study.

For more:
- read the AMA News article
- check out the study abstract
- read the announcement
- read the editorial

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