IRB: Ethics & Human Research

Effective Use of Consent Forms and Interactive Questions in the Consent Process

Although written consent forms are standard in clinical research, there is little regulatory or empirical guidance regarding how to most effectively review consent forms with potential participants. We developed an algorithm for embedding five questions with corrective feedback while reading consent forms with potential participants, and then applied it in the context of seven clinical research studies. A substantial proportion of participants within each protocol displayed initially inadequate responses to at least one question, but after the protocol elements were explained again, most people demonstrated adequate understanding of them. These data illustrate the need for more attention not just to the content of consent forms, but also to the manner in which the forms are incorporated into the consent process. Embedding explicit inquiries about key protocol elements during consent form review and giving corrective feedback appears to be a simple yet effective way to foster better understanding of disclosed information.

Key words/concepts: informed consent, research ethics, competence, communication