Meta-consent for the secondary use of health data within a learning health system: a qualitative study of the public’s perspective
KeywordsLearning healthcare system
Medical philosophy. Medical ethics
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AbstractAbstract Background The advent of learning healthcare systems (LHSs) raises an important implementation challenge concerning how to request and manage consent to support secondary use of data in learning cycles, particularly research activities. Current consent models in Quebec were not established with the context of LHSs in mind and do not support the agility and transparency required to obtain consent from all involved, especially the citizens. Therefore, a new approach to consent is needed. Previous work identified the meta-consent model as a promising alternative to fulfill the requirements of LHSs, particularly large-scale deployments. We elicited the public’s attitude toward the meta-consent model to evaluate if the model could be understood by the citizens and would be deemed acceptable to prepare for its possible implementation in Quebec. Methods Eight focus groups, with a total of 63 members of the general public from various backgrounds were conducted in Quebec, Canada, in 2019. Explicit attention was given to literacy levels, language spoken at home and rural vs urban settings. We assessed attitudes, concerns and facilitators regarding key components of the meta-consent model: predefined categories to personalized consent requests, a dynamic web-based infrastructure to record meta-consent, and default settings. To analyse the discussions, a thematic content analysis was performed using a qualitative software. Results Our findings showed that participants were supportive of this new approach of consent as it promotes transparency and offers autonomy for the management of their health data. Key facilitators were identified to be considered in the implementation of a meta-consent model in the Quebec LHSs: information and transparency, awareness campaigns, development of educational tools, collaboration of front-line healthcare professionals, default settings deemed acceptable by the society as well as close partnerships with recognized and trusted institutions. Conclusions This qualitative study reveals the openness of a sample of the Quebec population regarding the meta-consent model for secondary use of health data for research. This first exploratory study conducted with the public is an important step in guiding decision-makers in the next phases of implementing the various strategies to support access and use of health data in Quebec.