Why Electronic Consent Forms May Improve Patient Compliance

Reimbursement changes have decreased the time physicians can spend with patients, which makes patients less likely to fully be able to comply with care plans.

Are your patients usually clear about medical procedures you’re going to perform? Are they less compliant with your recommendations than you’d like them to be? 

Your answer to these questions may determine your risk for a medical malpractice lawsuit. Yet not being well-informed about a medical procedure is a common complaint among patients.

In a 2009 survey of 402 physicians on physician compliance, conducted by Lake Research partners, 78 percent of physicians questioned reported that recent changes in reimbursements have decreased the time they can spend with each patient. And less time mean less likelihood that patients are clear about their plans of care, and are able to fully comply with them.

The good news is that technology has the power to change this reality. That’s why a handful of vendors are rolling out easy-to-read, electronic consent forms that can be e-mailed to patients, and kept intact on a patient’s preferred computing platform.

One of these vendors, Dialog Medical, has taken the idea a step further and developed an application it calls “iMedConsent” that displays these forms on Apple’s iPad, so they may be more easily e-mailed to patients by iPad-toting physicians. The result: Patients don’t lose consent forms as often as they would paper forms, and digital signatures may be collected electronically.

“One of the challenges you see is if patients don’t fully understand the procedures they have, they’re not going to discontinue their Coumadin or do other required tasks to prepare effectively for their operations,” Timothy Kelly, vice president of Dialog Medical, told Physicians Practice. “This is the opportunity for technology to address some of these learning gaps.”

Patient compliance is just one potential benefit of using electronic consent forms. The other benefit: Physicians have an easier time meeting CMS’ Stage One “meaningful use” requirement to “provide patients with an electronic copy of their health information, upon request.”

However, consent forms, whether paper or electronic, aren’t enough in and of themselves. They should always be easy to read and “specific to the exact procedure you have done,” says Kelly. “If you just see paragraphs of gook, people don’t want to read it, but if you see bulletized lists of things, you capture it and you want to retain it.”