BACKGROUND: Informed consent is an integral component of good medical practice. Many researchers have investigated measures to improve the quality of informed consent, but it is not clear which techniques work best and why. To address this problem, we propose developing a core outcome set (COS) to evaluate interventions designed to improve the consent process for surgery in adult patients with capacity. Part of this process involves reviewing existing research that has reported what is important to patients and doctors in the informed consent process.
METHODS: This qualitative synthesis comprises four phases: identification of published papers and determining their relevance; appraisal of the quality of the papers; identification and summary of the key findings from each paper while determining the definitiveness of each finding against the primary data; comparison of key themes between papers such that findings are linked across studies.
RESULTS: Searches of bibliographic databases returned 11,073 titles. Of these, 16 studies met the inclusion criteria. Studies were published between 1996 and 2016 and included a total of 367 patients and 74 health care providers. Thirteen studies collected data using in-depth interviews and constant comparison was the most common means of qualitative analysis. A total of 94 findings were extracted from the primary papers and divided into 17 categories and ultimately 6 synthesised findings related to: patient characteristics, knowledge, communication, the model patient, trust and decision making.
CONCLUSIONS: This qualitative meta-aggregation is the first to examine the issue of informed consent for surgery. It has revealed several outcomes deemed important to capture by patients and clinicians when evaluating the quality of a consent process. Some of these outcomes have not been examined previously in research comparing methods for informed consent. This review is an important step in the development of a COS to evaluate interventions designed to improve the consent process for surgery.
REGISTRATION: The study protocol was registered on the international prospective register for systematic reviews (PROSPERO ID: CRD42017077101).