Patient Information Forms: Making Patients Happy

Patient Information Form ImageWhen you have to visit an oral surgeon, it’s seldom fun, but often necessary.

"We’ll see you on the fifteenth and don’t forget to arrive about twenty minutes early since it’s your first appointment." said the woman over the phone.

One of the worst things about the first visit to any doctor is the dreaded clipboard. Filling out patient information forms is absolutely no fun at all.

I really hate filling out forms by hand. I think most people do.

Why I hate filling out Patient Information Forms

  • I don’t always have all the information.
  • My handwriting is terrible.
  • Why can’t I fill out the forms when it is convenient for me? Like at home, on my PC?
  • Why do I have to spend time filling out forms during my working day?
  • If I make a mistake filling out the form, I have cross out items . . . messy.

Paper Chase and Not in a Good Way

Time was tight the day of my doctor’s visit, so I really was hoping I could fill out the forms ahead of time. I called back the receptionist a few minutes later and asked her to email me all of the paperwork I needed and then I’d email it back. "Oh, I don’t think we can do that."

It turned out that this successful practice did not have electronic versions of the forms.

"Plus," the receptionist said, "because of HIPAA we can’t use email."

I eventually received a distressed version of the forms via fax. The form images were skewed oddly and it looked like it was a copy of a copy of a copy.

I think that’s unprofessional.

Not Hip to HIPAA

The HIPAA excuse bugged me. Could that be true? Master of social media that I am, I tweeted about it and received an immediate response from the good folks at HIPPA.com.

[The] Doctor is a covered entity, subject to Privacy and Security Rules. Patient is not a covered entity. The patient can get the individually identified health information to the doctor in any manner as by doing so he is self-authorizing the release of the information.  

That’s pretty clear. I can send a doctor my information any way I want to.

Finding Patient Information Forms on the Web

Although my oral surgeon was clearly stuck in the paper world, my intuition was that I could probably find a lot of Patient Information Forms on the web.

Shazam!

I did a bit of Googling and got 36,400,000 hits on the term "patient information form"!

Now, the Bad News . . .

Ideally, I was hoping to find fillable PDF forms.

Fillable PDFs includes form fields that anyone can type into using the free Adobe Reader. It’s easy to tab from field to field or click checkboxes to enter patient information.

How many practices offer fillable, PDF forms? I certainly didn’t have time to look at all 36 million hits, but out of the first few pages of results, only about 5% were fillable PDFs.

That means, that 95% of the forms require that I print them out and fill them by hand. That’s not a big improvement over filling them in at the doctor’s office.

Make Your Forms Fillable. Make your Patients Happy!

With Adobe Acrobat 9 Standard, you can transform your flat forms into fillable forms. If you do, you’ll get the following benefits:

  • Happy patients who don’t need to arrive 20 minutes early to fill our your forms
  • Readable forms . . . no need to decipher patient handwriting
  • More complete information since patients have better access to the information needed to fill the form
  • Save Money by not printing forms
  • Be Green! Less printing is good for the environment
  • Data . . . you can extract data from the form and load it into practice management applications

In future articles, I’ll discuss how to convert your existing Patient Information Forms into fillable PDFs.

Stay tuned!