Nobody likes paperwork, but that doesn’t change the need for information. That need places a burden on both patients and the practices that serve them. That burden can be big or small depending on the approach that is taken to gathering and maintaining patient information. Filling out forms has been an on-going irritation for patients and staff. Over the last many decades, patients have been asked to come in early for appointments spending extra time, often in crowded waiting rooms, with a clipboard full of forms many of which require writing the same information over and over. Staff know that one patient with unfilled forms can slow down the schedule, creating delays, longer waits and extended work hours for everyone.
The idea of emailing PDFs of forms to patients ahead of time was an interesting step in the effort to improve the process. In reality, it has simply shifted the organizational burden to the patient, causing them even more frustration. Now the patient has to find access to a printer, use their own paper supply and remember to bring the completed forms with them to the office. Leaving them on the kitchen table simply means they will repeat the whole process upon arrival creating delays in patient flow and more unhappy patients that follow.
In a world that has been online for decades, this whole process is simply ridiculous to the Gen Z and Millennial generations, who seek out “modern” healthcare providers. If a practice still uses paper forms, or requires printing, it’s easy to assume they are out of step with today’s world and that the care provided is as archaic as the systems they use. Other generations may feel the same, but express their feelings differently, or simply carry the burden with a grudge.
A recent study by the Lobbie Institute revealed 81% of patients surveyed prefer digital forms over paper and clipboards, with 83% stating they want to complete forms online before coming into the healthcare facility. Further, 76% of patients surveyed said that between two comparable doctors, they would pick the one that provided online forms, with half saying they would give a doctor a more favorable rating if they provided that technology. The fact is, that in today’s world, it is common knowledge that using paper-based forms is inefficient, unnecessary, environmentally unwise, and wasteful.
Your staff are immersed in the online world via their phones and other devices. They know traditional patient intake and registration systems that relied on waiting in crowded rooms and using printed forms and clipboards is a broken process. Many of them know there is technology to address these issues. Healthcare providers have focused on clinical systems, and rightly so, but staff also want functionality like online forms that help them with daily operations and reduce the burden of pushing paper and people around the office.
The cost of one patient showing up late and pushing back the schedule to fill out a set of forms ripples through the schedule and results in either the monetary loss due to cancelations and walkouts later in the day, or the loss of quality of life as everybody in the office works later hours. It has become relatively easy to put innovative technology in the hands of patients and staff to fill out forms online, automate check-in and streamline front-office workflow in real-time, from wherever and whenever it's needed.
There is really good news here. Modernizing and streamlining your forms management has never been easier. Thanks to a convergence of advances in technology, more sophisticated application frameworks, the prevalence of Smart-phone use and business models that make it easy and affordable, there is no reason not to be enjoying the benefits of online patient forms management.
Really powerful software tools are no longer only for large organizations with strong IT departments and large capital budgets. The barriers of costs and resources have been eliminated with modern web-based applications.
With costs and technical issues out of the way, the benefits of forms automation are now available to all, no matter the size of your practice.
To enjoy all the benefits available today, it is important to remember that not all product offerings will get you the same results. What you get may vary depending on the product you choose. Here are some things to look for.
The user experience should be at the top of your list. If the user experience is not good, your patients won’t use it and neither will your team. Poor user experiences are a key reason that adopting new tools can be hard, time consuming, expensive, and even fail. In today’s world we expect the user experience to be intuitive and extremely easy, requiring no training or user manuals. When selecting a product, carefully assess the design for its clarity and usability.
Use this simple checklist:
With modern tools now available and affordable, there is no reason not to take advantage of all they have to offer. Let’s summarize the business reasons that make switching to online forms management the smart thing to do:
It’s never been easier to make the transition to online patient forms management, so what is stopping your facility? We hope this article helps you and your team think about it.