A group of doctors have found that patients prefer learning about their surgery from an iPad.

Real, informed consent can be difficult to get ahead of a procedure due to technical language, jargon and time pressure, with up to half of patients finding it difficult to understand what their doctor tells them.

Now, a study at hospitals in Sydney has found that preparing patients for surgery using iPads gives patients a better understanding than after a face-to-face consultation.

The study found using a video narrated by a doctor and watched on an iPad increased understanding of the procedure by 15.5 per cent, while 80 per cent said they preferred the video over a meeting with their doctor.

“Patients often find it difficult to understand the medical language used by Doctors during face-to-face standard verbal communication, and they often feel intimidated by the interaction”, said lead researcher, Matthew Winter (Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney, Australia).

“Often doctors work within busy practises and clinical environments with time limiting the quality of a consult and or verbal consent for a procedure. Patients often find it difficult to comprehend their planned procedure.

“We have found patient’s knowledge is greatly improved through the use of portable video media and is their overall preferred method of information delivery compared with standard verbal communication”.”

The researchers conducted a randomised trial of 88 patients facing surgery for acute renal colic (the abdominal pain often caused by kidney stones). Forty-five of the patients discussed the forthcoming surgery with their doctor as normal, while 43 patients were given a video presentation on an iPad.

The patients were then questioned on their understanding of the medical procedure and their satisfaction regarding the information delivery technique, and after this they were switched.

After both the iPad and the face-to-face consultation, patients were then asked to give their overall preference of information delivery.

The results showed use of the video increased understanding by 15.5 per cent in comparison to the direct consultation. In addition, 71 patients (80.7 per cent) preferred the video.

“Informed consent for patients undergoing procedures is both an ethical and legal responsibility and crucially important for optimising treatment,” Dr Winter said.

“Patients should be intimately involved in deciding upon their treatment, and understanding their treatment is often vital to a good recovery. Although medicine has advanced by leaps and bounds, there has been little change to the informed consent procedure and how a doctor explains the treatment to the patient. Through the use of portable video media, a doctor can present his/her own practise and procedural technique in an innovative, dynamic and engaging manner.”

“We are not saying that using portable video media should replace consent. Our work shows that there are alternatives to interviews, which can help significantly, improve patient understanding and satisfaction.”

The study - The use of portable video media versus standard verbal communication in the urological consent process: A randomised controlled clinical trial - has been presented at a recent congress of the European Association of Urology, and will be available soon.