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When Patient Consent Goes High-Tech

What would you rather know when undergoing a surgical procedure: What are your most likely complications during the proposed surgery based on your own personal characteristics, or all of the potential complications that could arise with your upcoming surgical procedure?

Several major medical centers are betting you’d like to know your tailored personal risks.

For example:

Integris Heart Hospital doctors are testing a high-tech consent form for patients considering angioplasty. A computer program draws from a database of 600,000 patients around the country to better predict individual risks and benefits of the procedure.

The new process replaces one-size-fits-all forms that were used primarily as a legal formality. The high-tech version uses simple language and illustrations to explain procedures, while mathematically predicting the risk of complications based on individual characteristics.
While it’s impossible to know all of the risks that can occur during a surgical procedure, there may be some value-prioritizing risks for a patient based on their renal or hepatic function, for instance. Still, I wonder if we risk sugarcoating invasive procedures (like a coronary angiogram) by suggesting to patients that their risk of stroke was virtually zero. 

After all, if you have a stroke during the procedure — no matter how low the preoperative risk assessment was — your risk suddenly becomes 100%.

-WesMusings of a cardiologist and cardiac electrophysiologist.

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Wes*

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