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"In order to make informed choices about health care, patients need complete and accurate information," Fox said.
"It is ultimately the patient's choice" whether to have a procedure. It's just that patients may not realize they have a choice. The program helps make that clear, she said.
The University of Chicago Medical Center recently began requiring new patients referred for colonoscopies to watch an Emmi program, with hopes that it will reduce the no-show rate.
Kristen Miller, 29, an online marketer with an intestinal condition called Crohn's disease, watched the Emmi program before she had a recent colonoscopy.
Miller has had previous colon exams and wasn't nervous about the procedure. But for the inexperienced, she believes it would take away "the intimidation factor."
Knowing more about the procedure may make it seem less unpleasant, and better informed patients are more prepared for their treatment, said Dr. Stephen Hanauer, the hospital's gastroenterology chief.
Research has shown that better informing patients about their care also can make them less likely to sue if something goes wrong. Still, it's no guarantee, and computer-based informed consent programs provide an electronic record that gives hospitals extra ammunition against malpractice lawsuits.
When patients watch Emmi programs, stopping and starting them to review information, they create an electronic trail. Hospitals have used that data in court to argue that patients were informed about specific risks because they watched portions of the program where risks were detailed.
Sara Juster, a vice president at Nebraska Methodist Health System, says that feature may have played a role in a patient's recent decision to drop a lawsuit against Methodist Hospital in Omaha.
The patient had sued over a shoulder injury her baby suffered during childbirth, a problem her first child also had encountered. The woman had watched an Emmi program detailing risks for the injury, but claimed she had not been informed, Juster said.
The hospital had electronic documentation, so the woman dropped her suit.
Juster said most of the system's obstetricians give pregnant patients "prescriptions" to watch Emmi programs about labor and delivery. Within the past eight years, obstetrics-related suits against the system's hospitals have dropped by half, from about 12 a year to six.
Emmi Solutions: http://www.emmisolutions.com/
Dialog Medical: http://www.dialogmedical.com/
Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making: http://www.informedmedicaldecisions.org/
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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