Original Research Article

Interactive multimedia consent for biobanking: a randomized trial

Published online:



The potential of interactive multimedia to improve biobank informed consent has yet to be investigated. The aim of this study was to test the separate effectiveness of interactivity and multimedia at improving participant understanding and confidence in understanding of informed consent compared with a standard, face-to-face (F2F) biobank consent process.


A 2 (face-to-face versus multimedia) × 2 (standard versus enhanced interactivity) experimental design was used with 200 patients randomly assigned to receive informed consent. All patients received the same information provided in the biobank’s nine-page consent document.


Interactivity (F(1,196) = 7.56, P = 0.007, partial η2 = 0.037) and media (F(1,196) = 4.27, P = 0.04, partial η2 = 0.021) independently improved participants’ understanding of the biobank consent. Interactivity (F(1,196) = 6.793, P = 0.01, partial η2 = 0.033), but not media (F(1,196) = 0.455, not significant), resulted in increased participant confidence in their understanding of the biobank’s consent materials. Patients took more time to complete the multimedia condition (mean = 18.2 min) than the face-to-face condition (mean = 12.6 min).


This study demonstrated that interactivity and multimedia each can be effective at promoting an individual’s understanding and confidence in their understanding of a biobank consent, albeit with additional time investment. Researchers should not assume that multimedia is inherently interactive, but rather should separate the two constructs when studying electronic consent.

Genet Med 18 1, 57–64.

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This work was supported by a grant from the National Human Genome Institute at the National Institutes of Health (R21HG006293).

The authors thank Joyce Craig, Abe Klein, Jamie L’Heureux, Jenni Rigdon, and Laura Shinkunas, as well as Jeff Murray, University of Iowa Biobank Director, for their assistance with and support of this study. In addition, the authors thank the following consultants for their excellent feedback: Wendy Foth, Wendy Wolf, and Jennifer McCormick. Excellent feedback from Andrew Bertolatus, Betsy Chrischilles, Lauris Kaldjian.

Author information


  1. Program in Bioethics and Humanities, Carver College of Medicine, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, USA

    • Christian M. Simon
  2. Department of Internal Medicine, Carver College of Medicine, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, USA

    • Christian M. Simon
  3. Law, Health Policy & Disability Center, College of Law, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, USA

    • David W. Klein
    •  & Helen A. Schartz


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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Christian M. Simon.