Informed Consent

I work in the IT department of a health care organization. I’ve noticed before that health care professionals are much better than IT professionals when it comes to setting the expectations of customers.

Last week, I found a handbook around the office called Risk Prevention Skills: Communication and Record Keeping in Clinical Practice. Substitute “customers” for “patients” and “software development” for “medical care” and you can apply the same advice to IT:

Some patients are unreasonable in their expectations of medical care. . . . If a complication does occur, the patient or family with unreasonable expectations will usually conclude that someone must have done something wrong and should be blamed. The only way to correct unreasonable expectations is to accurately explain to the patient, before care is provided, what problems may be encountered.

An accurate description of the range and likelihood of possible outcomes, and the reasons why an unsatisfactory result can occur, may be the most important elements of an informed consent.

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