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iPads Can Help Patients Better Understand Surgery

iPads Can Help Patients Better Understand Surgery

New research finds that individuals understand the details of a surgical procedure better when iPads are used rather than face-to-face explanations by the physician.

Prior studies have found that the technical language, jargon, time pressure, and stress associated with a surgery often lead to half of all patients finding it difficult to understand what their doctor tells them.

In the new study, a group of Australian doctors prepared patients for surgery using iPads — with physicians providing voice-over animated description of the procedure — and found that patients’ understanding was much better than after a face-to-face consultation.

Knowing the risks and benefits of a medical procedure are essential components of informed consent. This knowledge allows patients to better cope with the procedure as well as making an informed decision as to if they 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.

“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 Dr. Matthew Winter.

“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.”

In the study, the researchers designed a randomized controlled trial to check the understanding of 88 patients facing surgery for acute renal colic (the abdominal pain often caused by kidney stones).

Forty-five 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 counseling receiving the video, and vice versa, followed by the same questionnaire.

Patients were then asked to give their overall preference of information delivery.

Researchers discovered that that the use of the video increased understanding by 15.5 percent, in comparison to the direct consultation. In addition, 71 patients (80.7 percent) preferred the video as against 17 (19.3 percent) who preferred the face-to-face meeting.

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

“Although medicine has advanced by leaps and bounds, there has been little change to the informed consent procedure and how a doctor explains the treatment to the patient. Through the use of portable video media, a doctor can present his/her own practice and procedural technique in an innovative, dynamic, and engaging manner.

“We are not saying that using portable video media should replace consent. Our work shows that there are alternatives to interviews, which can help significantly, improve patient understanding, and satisfaction.

“Most patients prefer being able to use the portable media devices to a face-to-face consultation which benefits both clinician and patient through improved quality of care. Portable video media is a useful addition to the informed consent process and I predict will form a crucial component of this process in years to come.”


Source: European Association of Urology/EurekAlert
Doctor giving patient a tablet photo by shutterstock.

iPads Can Help Patients Better Understand Surgery

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). iPads Can Help Patients Better Understand Surgery. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 2, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 15 Mar 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.