iPad overtakes the doctor


A group of Australian doctors has prepared patients for surgery using iPads, and found that patients’ understanding was much better than after a face-to-face consultation.

“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 (Sydney, Australia), whose study was presented in the Abstract Session.

It is crucial that patients understand what medical procedures they face so they can cope with the procedure, and provide fully informed consent to the treatment. However, many patients come out of critical face-to-face interviews with doctors not really understanding what to expect or what they might have agreed to.

”Often doctors work within busy practices 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,” said Winter.

The researchers designed a randomised controlled trial (RCT) to check the understanding of 88 patients facing surgery for acute renal colic (the abdominal pain often caused by kidney stones). 45 of the patients discussed the forthcoming surgery with their doctor as normal, whereas 43 patients were given a video presentation with cartoon animation narrated by a doctor which could be viewed on tablets such as an iPad. The patients were then questioned on their understanding of the medical procedure and their satisfaction regarding the information delivery technique. After this they were switched, with those who had received face-to-face counselling receiving the video, and vice versa, followed by the same questionnaire. Patients were then asked to give their overall preference of information delivery.

They found the use of the video increased understanding by 15.5% compared to direct consultation. Moreover, 71 patients (80.7%) preferred the video as against 17 (19.3%) who preferred the face-to-face meeting.

Winter: “Informed consent for patients undergoing procedures is both an ethical and legal responsibility and crucially important for optimising treatment. Patients should be intimately involved in deciding upon their treatment, and understanding their treatment is often vital to a good recovery.”