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Highlights from Noontime Session, 2009 Joint Meeting, San Francisco
Why Take the Risk?

How to Create an Effective Risk Management Strategy with Patient Education and Informed Consent Documents.
Presenters: Richard L. Abbott, MD, Chairman of Ophthalmic Mutual Insurance Company (OMIC) Board of Directors, Andrew Iwach, MD, Secretary for Communications, American Academy of Ophthalmology, Gilberto Aguirre, MD, Chairman, Patient Education Committee, American Academy of Ophthalmology.

An Eye M.D.’s responsibility is to ensure that patients have reasonable expectations of surgery through the informed consent process. A signed and witnessed informed consent document doesn’t mean there is no legal risk. In case after case, patients who sue claim that their surgeon didn’t give them enough information about the operation or didn’t give enough time to decide whether the operation was right for them.

Spending more time with patients and incorporating patient education materials may reduce the likelihood of malpractice claims. While poor treatment outcome is the primary cause of malpractice actions, poor communication is actually at the root of about 75 percent of cases.  A good physician-patient relationship might deter patients from suing  —  even in situations where medical error causes a problem.

Save time and trouble later. Create an effective patient education and informed consent program in your practice now.

What you should disclose to a patient undergoing surgery:
  • any risks that are believed to help the patient make a decision whether to proceed with surgery;
  • risks that reflect the needs and understanding of the patient, the limits of the procedure and major risks;
  • all risks do not need to be disclosed verbally, but should be included in as much detail as possible in the informed consent document;
  • verbal emphasis should be placed on items that are particularly important to the patient.
Informed consent documents:
  • should be reviewed with patient in office in advance of surgery;
  • should be given to patients to take home and review with family or friends;
  • should be returned, signed prior to surgery — all pages initialed;
  • should be saved within medical records.
Informed consent encompasses virtually every piece of educational material your patient gets from your practice, including:
  • verbal descriptions and instructions;
  • patient handouts;
  • videos;
  • marketing materials.
Good patient education:
  • is clear, accurate, current and thorough;
  • is developed by a reliable, professional source;
  • serves as an “extender” of the oral conversation with patient; 
  • helps improve understanding of consent form risks;
  • is not overstated and does not instill unrealistic expectations in patient; and
  • avoids misleading statements, such as “eliminate glasses” or “safe and effective.”
Key take-away points:
  • take the time to talk with your patients;
  • timing of consent discussion is critical;
  • consent documents and patient education materials must be up-to-date;
  • patient information and marketing materials are part of informed consent process;
  • documentation is essential.

Noontime Session Archive

2007 Noontime Session:
Language Differences
Learn about increasing cultural competency in your practice.