VA to use technology to improve patients' informed consent

The Veterans Affairs Department is adopting a program to help patients make more informed decisions about their health care. VA will introduce the Electronic Support for Patient Decisions initiative at all 158 VA medical centers within a year, the department said.

Customized software called iMedConsent will provide patients with information about treatment options and standardize procedures among clinicians.

Software maker Dialog Medical of Atlanta developed the iMedConsent software under the direction of VA's National Center for Ethics in Health Care.

The iMedConsent program takes physicians step by step through the informed-consent process, displays detailed educational materials about risks and benefits of proposed treatments, generates and stores consent forms, incorporates electronic signatures into records and imports information from patient records.

Although the program is designed primarily to assist physicians, it also guides informed-consent discussions between doctors and patients.

The electronic support system complements VA's electronic patient records system, the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology, or VistA, which allows health care providers to continuously update patient information, including lab tests and results, medications and diet. The e-health record provides clinicians throughout the VA system instant access to a patient's complete record.

VA has also implemented bar-coded medication administration for inpatients and robotic prescription preparation for prescription accuracy. A clinical reminder system allows care providers to consistently deliver necessary health interventions.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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