Smarter Patient Forms

Mitch Collier

The clipboard and forms have historically been a standard part of most patient office visits.  As a patient, you are expected to provide all the medical history you can recall while sitting in the doctor’s office.  Patients with a long medical history may have difficulty remembering all their details.  It is very easy to forget to write down important item such as a medication or allergy which could have drastic consequences.

Clinics with patient portals now give patients the option to complete these forms online, before their appointment.  While this is more convenient, many of these online forms are simply digital versions of the paper forms in the physician’s office.  Patients are still expected to type in all of the information.  The forms are also typically a one-way submission.  Any questions or follow up are handled in person at the clinic.

The objective of patient portals is to optimize the interaction between the patient and the physician.  To reach its full potential, a portal should leverage all the data sources available and guide the patient through the experience.  The portal should leverage data within the EMR wherever possible to reduce the amount of data entry by the patient.  Embedding items such as medication lists and allergies directly into an online form greatly enhances the value to both the patient and provider.  Rather than having to remember all these details and enter a comprehensive itemized list, the patient is able to confirm if the data is correct or submit any additions or corrections.  This also allows the provider to confirm if the data within the EMR is accurate and current.  Inclusion of this data not only improves the patient experience, but reduces the risk of missing or incorrect health information critical to the physician.

Another area of improvement for online eforms is to use branching logic based on the patient’s responses.   If a patient answers that he or she is not a smoker then he or she shouldn’t be asked how many years he or she smoked.  This is applicable to many gender and age-specific questions.  This is standard functionality in online portals for many industries, yet patient portals often force the patient to answer a boilerplate questionnaire.  Wherever possible, portals should look to reduce the data entry burden on the patient by eliminating questions the patient has already answered.

Providing “smarter” eforms to patients greatly enhances the online experience.  Leveraging data within the EMR and utilizing the patient’s responses reduces the amount of data entry and reduces the risk of incomplete or missing data.  Patient portals should leverage the full power of customer EMRs to streamline communication between patients and providers.


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