Redesigning Informed Consent: Enhancing Risk Communication Through a Novel Risk Visualization Tool

Thomas Arthur, Alfred Phillips, Zanna Franks, Stacey Pearce


Background: The communication of risk is a difficult task, with evidence to suggest that doctors perform poorly in the attempt to convey it. Consent forms should be designed to assist in informing patients of these risks, and encourage their comprehension. The authors present a pilot study into a novel risk visualization tool (RVT) for the informed consent process, which provides probabilistic and severity information in a single graphical form.

Methods: This is a prospective, randomized study of adult volunteers. One hundred volunteers were taken through a mock consent process for a laparoscopic appendicectomy, with either the RVT or standard institutional form.

Results: There was greater recall of surgical risks in the group that utilized the RVT (4.94/8.0, 61%) compared to the standard consent form (3.52/8.0, 44%) (P <= 0.005). Participants who were given the RVT were also more likely to recall the most common risk and the most severe risk. Participants who were given the RVT also reported greater satisfaction with the informed consent process than those patients given the standard consent form.

Conclusion: The results of the study suggest that a patient’s ability to comprehend the risks of a surgical procedure and satisfaction with the consenting process can be improved with the use of the RVT.

J Curr Surg. 2015;5(2-3):160-164



Consent; Surgery; Communication

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Journal of Current Surgery, quarterly, ISSN 1927-1298 (print), 1927-1301 (online), published by Elmer Press Inc.                     
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