Physician-patient communication and patient empowerment can help patients make more effective informed choices for their care. To improve the informed consent process, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) engaged The Joint Commission and Abt Associates to provide guidance through free online courses for hospital leadership and other health care professionals.

Informed consent is an area that some hospitals are struggling to comply with. In 2016, Joint Commission surveyors identified compliance issues related to informed consent in more than 500 hospitals.

The on-demand courses consist of two modules.

The Leadership Module reviews each topic that an informed consent policy should address and provides examples from a fictional hospital of what each part of the policy could look like. The module also outlines strategies and system changes for hospitals to create a culture that supports a high-quality policy of informed consent and illustrates how to launch an informed consent quality improvement initiative. The course provides downloadable worksheets and 34 resources.

The Healthcare Providers Module provides strategies and tools to improve the informed consent process through effective communication and patient engagement. The concept of informed consent as a team process and tips on adequate documentation are also presented.   

Each module offers 2 continuing education (CE) credits and includes interactive features such as video recordings, illustrative scenarios, model conversations, patient stories, and a pre-test and post-test. Joint Commission accredited health care organizations may register for the courses through The Joint Commission’s online learning management system (LMS). An implementation guide and other resources are available on the AHRQ website. Hospitals that do not participate in The Joint Commission’s LMS may obtain the courses for their own LMS from AHRQ by emailing healthliteracy@AHRQ.gov