Patient Education & Informed Consent

Patient Education & Informed Consent

What is Informed Consent?
Informed consent is the process by which an informed patient gives permission to a doctor or healthcare provider to perform a specific medical treatment or procedure. It is based on the principle that patients have the right to be fully informed about their medical condition, the proposed treatment, potential risks and benefits, and any alternative options available. Importantly, informed consent is a collaborative process in which the patient and doctor work together towards the shared goal of having the best outcome possible for the patient’s case.

The Role of Patient Education
Providing patient education is an essential component of the informed-consent process. By providing patients with comprehensive, accurate and understandable information, healthcare providers can empower their patients to make informed decisions.

By providing patient education, healthcare providers can:
  • Explain the patient's medical condition in clear and simple terms
  • Discuss the available treatment options
  • Address any concerns or questions the patient may have
  • Provide guidance on lifestyle changes that can complement the treatment plan
  • Educate patients about the expected outcomes and possible risks and complications, lessening the risk of patient complaints and legal action post-treatment.
The Benefits of Patient Education
When doctors ensure patients are well-informed, several benefits are observed:
  • Improved Doctor-Patient Relationship: Patient education fosters trust between doctors and patients. When doctors take the time to educate their patients, it demonstrates their commitment to patient-centred care and strengthens the doctor-patient relationship.
  • Risk Management: By providing patients with treatment information, doctors can significantly reduce the risk of malpractice claims from “failure to inform” and fulfil their duty to inform patients of the potential risks and complications of the proposed treatment. Read more about the medico-legal necessity for patient education to assist informed consent below.
  • Efficient Time Management: While this process of educating patients may take extra time, hopefully it will avoid problems and complaints if a complication does occur. Providing patient education can assist the efficiency of consultations with patients, saving doctor’s time. Patient education materials can communicate a large amount of information in a easily understood format for patients to read at home.
  • Improved Compliance: When patients understand their medical condition and the reasons behind the recommended treatment, they are more likely to comply with the prescribed treatments, lifestyle modifications, and follow-up appointments.
  • Improved Patient Outcomes: Informed patients are better equipped to actively participate in decisions about their health. They can assess the benefits, risks and limitations of different treatment options, make informed decisions, and actively participate in their treatment plans. This helps to make patient’s expectations more realistic, leading to enhanced patient satisfaction and a more positive patient experience.
Effective Patient Education
How Mi-tec Patient Education can assist effective communication with patients:
  1. Use of clear and jargon-free language to explain medical information
  2. Utilises visual aids such as illustrations and images to enhance understanding
  3. Encourages patients to ask questions and address any concerns they may have
  4. Communicates a large amount of treatment information in a highly efficient manner
  5. Provides take-home materials for patients to refer to post-consultation.

The medico-legal necessity for patient education
The case of Rogers v Whitaker was a landmark decision in Australian medical law that involved a patient, Jill Whitaker, who went blind after a doctor, Dr Rogers, failed to warn her about the risks of a routine eye surgery. The case raised important questions about the duty of care that doctors owe to their patients. 

Key issues raised were:

  • The duty of care of medical professionals
  • Informed consent and patient autonomy
  • Negligence in medical practice.
The High Court of Australia ruled in favour of the patient, Jill Whitaker, stating that doctors have a duty to disclose all material risks to their patients, even if the risk is small. This decision emphasised the importance of informed consent, the need to provide adequate treatment information to patients, and the right of patients to make decisions about their own health.

This case set a precedent for medical negligence cases in Australia. It highlighted the need for doctors to communicate effectively with their patients and ensure that they understand the risks involved in their treatment, and set a standard for doctor-patient communication. The case also reinforced the principle of patient autonomy and the importance of informed consent in medical practice.

How Mi-tec's Patient Education Pamphlets can benefit you, your practice and your patients
Mi-tec publishes over 200 patient education pamphlets, across 24 medical specialities, to assist doctors with their informed-consent process. The pamphlets serve as valuable resources for medical professionals in establishing a process of communication with patients to improve patient outcomes and decrease the risk of patient complaints and medico-legal action. The pamphlets are described in plain English and contain medical illustrations and images to assist the patients’ understanding of health information and to help patients make informed decisions.