By Gregory Freeman, Author

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore found that consent forms were missing for 66% of surgical patients, causing one-tenth of procedures to be delayed.

Because so many patients came to surgery without proper consent forms, it fell to a resident to obtain consent 43% of the time. The researchers also found that only 47% of residents reported that they felt comfortable obtaining consent for major procedures, and residents typically spent less time obtaining consent from patients than did attending physicians.

The difference in how much time they took obtaining consent was more pronounced when residents obtained a patient’s consent at the last minute.

“The problem of lost or misplaced consents is both ubiquitous and extremely costly. It has been estimated that operating room delays resulting from these missing documents cost the average hospital $580,000 each year,” the researchers wrote.

In addition to the inefficiency and increased cost from a missing consent form, the Hopkins researchers noted that obtaining consent in the hurried environment of the preoperative area may lead to miscommunication between “expected and achieved results.”

That miscommunication can increase the litigation risk, they noted, citing previous research indicating that obtaining consent in the preoperative holding area does result in a marked increase in claims payments.

The study is available online at: