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The Importance of Patient Informed Consent

Gallagher Healthcare :: Industry Insights
By Gallagher Healthcare | 10/11/2018
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In any medical setting, decisions are made often. Doctors need to reach a diagnosis, then decide which treatment makes the most sense based on a patient’s needs. In turn, patients must evaluate what they hear and make decisions about whether to pursue a specific course of treatment, seek a second opinion or refuse a suggested procedure. In some situations, these decisions are made quickly if there is an emergency.

What Is Informed Consent in Healthcare?

Informed consent in healthcare is communication between a patient and a provider that lets a patient permit their doctor the right to perform a treatment. Patients have the right to information about their care and can ask questions before a procedure. If an adult patient is not mentally able to make their own decisions, they cannot begin medical care until they provide consent for clinical treatment.

The information a provider can offer during the informed consent process includes:

  • Name of the condition
  • Name of the treatment or recommended procedure
  • Possible risks and potential benefits of a treatment
  • Additional options for care, including not undergoing the treatment

Informed consent in healthcare is the law, codified by the 1914 Schloendorff vs. The Society of the New York Hospital case. It is also an important ethical consideration for doctors and healthcare providers.

When seeking informed consent, a physician should:

  • Assess their patient's ability to understand relevant medical information and possible implications of alternative treatment
  • Present all relevant information as accurately and sensitively as possible
  • Include information such as diagnosis, nature and purpose of a recommended treatment, potential burdens and risks, and all options, including not partaking in treatment
  • Document the conversation with the patient and include specific written consent in the patient's medical record

What Is the Purpose of Informed Consent?

The primary purpose of informed consent is to enhance patient protection. A consent form is a legal document that creates ongoing communication between a patient and provider. If a patient chooses to sign consent forms, it implies a provider has given appropriate information about their condition and treatment options, and the patient has made a decision that best suits their needs and preferences.

How a patient receives their treatment options will vary depending on state laws. Providers and patients can also work together to determine the best method for communicating important information. Depending on a patient's needs, providers may use options such as videos, interactive computer modules or audio files to help their patients understand their options. All patients have a right to go over the information as often as needed or ask their provider to explain their treatment options in several different ways.

What Is Informed Consent in Medicine?

Informed consent means patients receive enough information to make an educated decision about their treatment. This may mean a physician explains the possible side effects, risks and benefits of a course of treatment or informs a patient of what other treatments may be available. It can mean patients are given enough time, if possible, to consider their options and seek a second opinion, if appropriate. Informed consent can also mean patients are informed if treatment is recommended, as well as what might happen if they get no treatment.

Why Is Informed Consent Important in Healthcare?

No one can guarantee positive outcomes in healthcare settings, but informed consent at least ensures patients understand the risks they undertake with treatment. It is also the law. When patients agree to a treatment, they must sign paperwork indicating they understand the risks and agreeing doctors can take specific life-saving measures if needed.

Informed consent creates trust between doctor and patient by ensuring good understanding. It also reduces the risk for both patient and doctor. With excellent communication about risks and options, patients can make choices which are best for them and physicians face less risk of legal action.

To work effectively, informed consent must allow patients to make the decisions right for them. This means medical professionals must offer enough information to patients to enable them to make a choice and provide enough time, where possible, so patients don’t feel pressured. Pain, medication and some medical conditions can affect judgment and understanding, so doctors must consider these factors when seeking consent from a patient.

Get Coverage From Gallagher Healthcare

Informed consent alone is not enough. When miscommunication occurs, or patients sign consent forms but still pursue legal action, physicians and surgeons need strong medical malpractice coverage in place to protect themselves and allow them to deliver the best possible care to their patients.

Gallagher Healthcare is one of the largest advisors to physicians and surgeons when it comes to medical malpractice coverage. We can help you learn more about medical malpractice insurance, and our team of professionals can review your needs, so we can bring you multiple policy options.

Request a quote today to see how Gallagher Healthcare can work to bring you affordable coverage.

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