Comparing a Multimedia Digital Informed Consent Tool With Traditional Paper-Based Methods: Randomized Controlled Trial

JMIR Form Res. 2021 Oct 19;5(10):e20458. doi: 10.2196/20458.


Background: The traditional informed consent (IC) process rarely emphasizes research participants' comprehension of medical information, leaving them vulnerable to unknown risks and consequences associated with procedures or studies.

Objective: This paper explores how we evaluated the feasibility of a digital health tool called Virtual Multimedia Interactive Informed Consent (VIC) for advancing the IC process and compared the results with traditional paper-based methods of IC.

Methods: Using digital health and web-based coaching, we developed the VIC tool that uses multimedia and other digital features to improve the current IC process. The tool was developed on the basis of the user-centered design process and Mayer's cognitive theory of multimedia learning. This study is a randomized controlled trial that compares the feasibility of VIC with standard paper consent to understand the impact of interactive digital consent. Participants were recruited from the Winchester Chest Clinic at Yale New Haven Hospital in New Haven, Connecticut, and healthy individuals were recruited from the community using fliers. In this coordinator-assisted trial, participants were randomized to complete the IC process using VIC on the iPad or with traditional paper consent. The study was conducted at the Winchester Chest Clinic, and the outcomes were self-assessed through coordinator-administered questionnaires.

Results: A total of 50 participants were recruited in the study (VIC, n=25; paper, n=25). The participants in both groups had high comprehension. VIC participants reported higher satisfaction, higher perceived ease of use, higher ability to complete the consent independently, and shorter perceived time to complete the consent process.

Conclusions: The use of dynamic, interactive audiovisual elements in VIC may improve participants' satisfaction and facilitate the IC process. We believe that using VIC in an ongoing, real-world study rather than a hypothetical study improved the reliability of our findings, which demonstrates VIC's potential to improve research participants' comprehension and the overall process of IC.

Trial registration: NCT02537886;

Keywords: digital consent; digital health; e-consent; informed consent; mobile phone.

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