Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Are you fully informed?

Informed consent is a term used quite often in the health care environment. We appear to be informed by colored brochures and precisely titled information. They assist us in giving consent by a simple signature on a form. However, before consenting to anything medically we should ask ourselves, are we as patients and families really fully informed?

The complexity of being fully informed as well as the ability to make an informed choice was defined in a few stories I was recently told. In every doctor appointment or hospitalization we are asked for consent to many things, whether we realize it or not.
The concern lies in the following:
-Have we been given all the information necessary to make an informed decision?
-Have we been given adequate time to ask questions in order to safely consent?
-Have we been given the proper environment to accurately weigh all the options in order to give an informed consent?

At most medical appointments, we are given large doses of information. It makes having a notebook and pen with you at all times, a necessity. Medical data is complex with varied interpretations frequently exceeding one person’s capacity to absorb and process it. There is often a need for follow up conversation, either by phone or appointment, especially following a lengthy appointment involving life altering decisions. It’s not unusual to return home, where the stress of the appointment lessens, and new concerns or questions come to mind. Writing them down in your trusty notebook allows for them to not be forgotten, giving you the peace of mind they will be addressed later.

Sometimes patients and families are given only the data that lines up with the medical providers personal opinion or agenda. Fully informed choices are made based on all the information available with the opinions and agenda of both patient and provider presented and communicated as partners.

Consider the following questions about any diagnosis or treatment:
-Have I been given all the information, not just what others consider important?
-Have I been given all the treatment options including holistic and controversial?
-Have I been given all the risks, both physical and emotional?

With any medical appointment, a patient enters into a fee for service partnership with a provider. Not only are you paying them to do a service for you, but their profession promises to provide a level of respect and service that, quite frankly, is often lacking in our current heath care. Patients and family members are frustrated because of the many times they sense annoyance from medical staff in tense facial expressions, grumpy tone of voice or even words that too often rush our choices and decisions. It leaves patients and families feeling somewhat inferior for asking another question or asking that information be repeated at a time when they should be feeling confident and assured. Don’t allow that poor conduct to overshadow your expectation for safe, high quality service, which is valued in any good partnership.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No-one can make you feel inferior with out your consent.”

Be the Change says be fully informed before you give consent.

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