Concentric - an econsent solution?

We’ve taken a gamble. We’ve removed the mention of the terms econsent and e-consent from everywhere (except here!) on the website. In practical terms, this means that if you search a search engine for these terms you’re now less likely to find us.

When we used the term previously

We’ve never been a fan of the term econsent. We have however occasionally used it because we know that it’s a term that organisations naturally land on if they are thinking about replacing a paper-based consent process. It used to be in our website’s main title, which read ‘Concentric Health | Digital consent | econsent’, and sometimes used as a bracketed term following a mention of ‘digital consent’.

Why do we care

An ‘e-something’ is an electronic version of a thing. Often very literally just an electronic version of the thing. Importantly, from this comes the acceptance that it’s acceptable for it to be simply an electronic version of the thing, in our context, an electronic consent form.

That’s okay if the original thing was a process that worked for all parties, where an electronic version might make things a little easier administratively.

We don’t believe that’s the case with consent. To ‘econsent’ is to miss a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make this process work for all. That sounds over the top. It’s not.

A South Korean experience

In Autumn 2022 I was fortunate to go, with an Innovate UK delegation of digital health companies to South Korea. We visited around 10 hospitals during the week, presenting and discussing our products with clinicians.

South Korea are unsurprisingly reasonably advanced in the digital transformation of health records - each hospital we visited reported being paper-free. Interestingly, due to a competitive relationship between the hospitals and a natural South Korean tendency to believe that technology is a core part of what they do, each major hospital had built its own EHR (electronic health record).

This included consent, and these were a perfect demonstration of ‘econsent’. There was a consent section within the EPR which had hundreds of PDFs to scroll through, the option for the clinician to annotate the PDF, and then the patient would sign.

Here is a process that meets the operational requirement of a consent form that can be seen in theatre/before treatment is given, but has done nothing to improve the experience or quality of the process.

However, once such an electronic process – which is functional – is in place, the challenge of introducing a fundamentally better process in its place is a much harder sell. I’d say South Korea has missed its once-in-a-generation chance to improve their consent process (Generally. But there are some organisations with a particular focus on patient-centred care where there is a drive to improve the current situation).

‘Digital transformation’ involves using digital as an opportunity to improve processes and outcomes. Especially in healthcare and the stretched system we currently find ourselves in, this needs to find the balance between minimising disruption to clinicians and current processes, whilst not compromising on too many opportunities to think differently.

For us, digital consent feels like a much better description of what we’re doing than econsent. A digital transformation of the consent process to give clinicians powerful tools to prepare and personalise consent information, to share information that is easily accessible to patients anywhere and at any time, and to support with a depth of content across several different mediums including video.

This is a reasonably new product space, and as the market leaders we have enough confidence to stick our neck out on this. Concentric is not an econsent solution.