Developing and Implementing Electronic Consent Procedures in Response to Covid-19 Restrictions

Ethics Hum Res. 2022 Jul;44(4):39-44. doi: 10.1002/eahr.500135.


The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in unprecedented restrictions on many public, private, and workplace activities throughout the United States and elsewhere. When restrictions were imposed, we were conducting a type III hybrid effectiveness-implementation trial in 10 pediatric trauma centers. In response to several pandemic-based restrictions, we had to develop procedures for engaging with potential research participants while limiting nonclinical, in-person interactions. This manuscript describes the procedures and challenges of obtaining electronic informed consent and assent in a multisite trauma center-based research study. We developed, tested, and trained staff to implement three options for obtaining informed consent. Twenty-five participants were enrolled in the effectiveness-implementation multisite trial during the first six months of utilization of the consent options, with eleven of these individuals enrolled using hybrid or electronic consent procedures. The challenges we identified involving electronic consent procedures included confusion over who would complete the electronic consent process and difficulties reconnecting with families. Lessons learned can strengthen electronic consent and assent procedures for future studies. More research is needed to further strengthen this process and increase its utilization.

Keywords: Covid-19 pandemic; assent; electronic informed consent; human research ethics; human subjects research; informed consent.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / prevention & control
  • Child
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Electronics
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent*
  • Multicenter Studies as Topic
  • Pandemics
  • United States