Rethink Forms: 7 Reasons Why Healthcare Needs Dedicated Electronic Forms Technology

The Time for Better Healthcare Forms is Now

Even after implementing an EHR, healthcare leaders are surprised to find that, despite their large investment (and large expectations), form management challenges remain. Paper forms and the cumbersome, inefficient processes associated with them still linger.

The initiative to solve these challenges, not addressed by EHRs, is often placed on the back-burner. Considering the importance of the data forms collect, tackling inefficient form management processes is quickly crawling to the top of ‘to-do’ lists for healthcare leadership.


Shedding Light: More Than a ‘Forms’ Problem

In many cases, strategic and tactical challenges that impact the entire organization can often be traced backed to what is written off as simply a ‘forms’ problem or a ‘workflow’ problem.

Forms should be seen as more than a formality. They are essential for collecting and sharing data effectively.

The information on those forms drives the clinical and business processes that are the foundation of every healthcare organization; and therefore, the way those forms are managed should be thought of as a high priority.

If there is a “glitch” in a form management process, the repercussions can often negatively impact the speed of care, care outcomes, and even the hospital’s bottom-line.


Rethink Forms: The Strategic Value of Improving Your Forms Strategy

Modern hospitals are realizing that forms are much more than a necessary ‘business expense’. They are understanding how effective forms technology is a long-term investment in improved data management that ties directly into modern healthcare’s top strategic objectives, such as patient engagement, operational efficiency, patient safety, compliance, and analytics.

Think about it. How are your forms managed today?


Healthcare leaders have three main options to consider when considering their forms management strategy.

Option #1Do nothing. Continue to use paper forms and manually scan the documents into the EHR.

-The Problem: It’s no surprise the traditional, paper-based method of creating and delivering documents is accompanied by huge costs, chronic inefficiency and errors, and offers little flexibility. The cost of doing nothing cannot be ignored. While the system of manually scanning has been in place for decades, and has (in theory) worked, the process still leads to large overhead expenses, lost documents, manual errors and loss of productivity. This frustrates IT, HIM, and clinical staff who expect better processes considering their time invested in an EHR implementation.

Option #2Build a custom “form” in the EHR.

-The Problem:  While creating form-like views in the EHR system may be an option, most healthcare systems simply can’t justify the time and expense of having costly EHR developers custom build all their forms. In addition to the specialized development expense, an EHR-only forms strategy is a limited approach because document automation is necessary across more areas of healthcare delivery than what an EHR delivers. Plus, many consider this to be an inadequate solution because of the limited form features available in most clinical systems.

Option #3Find a better way to manage forms by implementing a dedicated electronic forms solution to complement your EHR.

-The Solution:  Leading healthcare organizations are seeking electronic forms technology that can deliver best-of-breed capabilities with a high level of customization and integration.

A dedicated eForm solution can deliver an ROI in as little as a few months, as form completion costs, processing costs, and correction costs are radically reduced. They allow you to instantly archive documents in the EHR and give your staff a better way to capture, store, and share data.  eForm technology enhances EHR systems and delivers enterprise-wide, cost-saving, and productivity benefits that have a large impact on an organization’s bottom-line.

The recent pressure from healthcare reform and increased competition is driving a heightened interest to reduce costs and eliminate waste in healthcare delivery. This has left many healthcare organizations, previously in the dark about their poor form management processes, to begin to rethink their forms strategy. If your organization is still relying on disconnected, pre-printed paper forms or defaulting to your EHR forms, you should take the time to consider a more sophisticated, electronic plan of action.


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Here are 7 reasons why many modern healthcare organizations are turning to a dedicated eForms vendor:

1. All clinical documentation should be automated.

Given that forms are an important tool and that the EHR isn’t as efficient at creating those forms, forms technology is an attractive way to supplement the EHR. In some cases, a forms interface is the most intuitive way to collect information from patients and staff.

Healthcare leaders are also looking to automate documents (such as consents, referrals, checklists, care guidelines, rounding, and other ancillary care forms) that are not addressed by the EHR. With an eForm solution, most any type of document that is currently paper-based can be quickly converted to an electronic document and automated.


2. Enable the collection of valuable patient generated health data (PGHD) with eForms.

It’s no surprise today’s patient wants a more convenient way to provide their health information. A typical method of gathering PGHD before or after a care visit is to encourage the patient to download forms from the website, print them, and fill them out by hand and then fax or bring them in the day of their visit. This simply shifts the burden and frustration of paperwork from the employee to the patient.

Another method of remote data capture is via the patient portal, but many are frustrated to find the forms capabilities of these platforms to be lacking. Common features of best-of-breed eForms solutions (like electronic signature, image capture, data pre-fill, guided forms navigation, and more) are missing, leaving documentation process to only be partially completed through the platform.

Electronic forms technology serves as an add-on for your EHR or patient portal, providing the forms features you need to allow patients to easily complete intake forms electronically before they arrive for treatment. Patients can review and complete eForms and eChecklists from the convenience of their personal mobile device or computer. The information provided is then instantly available to the care team in the EHR – enhancing collaboration and improving processes for patients and staff.


3. Instantly archive documents at the point-of-care.

Paper forms and tethered devices (such as digital signature pads on carts) don’t provide the best experience for patients and create process bottlenecks for staff.  It’s difficult for patients to read and sign documents, such as informed consents, when lying in a hospital bed, so a mobile experience is preferable for patients in a prone position.

Staff are also frustrated with these methods of form completion because they require them to stop other critical tasks to track down the forms or equipment required, physically sign the documents, scan the documents, and manually archive them in a file or the EHR.

Delivering forms at the point-of-care more effectively is crucial to improving the patient’s experience and accelerating the completion of documentation.  An electronic form solution allows your staff to complete clinical documentation wherever they are via mobile tablets.  Therefore, they can collect patient signatures and complete forms at the bedside, which improves the quality of care and ensures documents are archived in the EHR visible to the entire care team instantly.


4. Reduce form management errors to meet compliance standards.

Many facilities print and scan documents in the EHR manually. This is a common refrain from many hospitals – even those that identify as “paperless.”  However, the high risk of lost or improperly archived documents is too great to ignore.

A surprising number of hospitals still send their forms packets to a centralized scanning area to be processed by hand and manually scanned into their document management system. Because of this, at many hospitals, it takes anywhere from 12 to 36 hours for clinical documents to be archived.

If forms must be printed, A dedicated eForms solution allows healthcare forms to be generated on-demand, complete with both patient and document barcodes.  Therefore, forms can be scanned directly into the EHR from the point of service. Hospitals can ensure that healthcare forms are properly completed, stored, and archived – every time.


5. Give time back to staff and reduce costs with better standardization of forms.

Automation solutions cut costs (and time) associated with paper, toner, printing, scanning and storage by replacing paper-based, manual processes with digital workflows. On forms costs alone, hospitals can save thousands of dollars per year with the right solution in place.  Additionally, resources previously dedicated to printing, scanning, retrieving and labeling forms and indexing them with patient records can shift their time gained back to more valuable activities.

Every second of a clinician’s time is valuable – and that there is simply never enough of it. With a dedicated eForms solution in place, time spent tracking down the latest version of a form is a thing of the past.

A recent study of customers of a leading eForms vendor, showed that with the eForm solution in place, nurses added 10+ minutes to their day. Considering the number of nurses at a health system, that is a lot of time that can be spent working top of license and spending more time with patients: the reason they got into the industry in the first place.


6.  Automate non-clinical documents across the enterprise.

EHR-based forms are solely focus on clinical forms and disregard other non-clinical administrative areas where data is still being manually captured. Improving electronic document workflow across all business units is critical to a healthcare organization in which responsiveness and efficiency matter.

With a dedicated eForms platform, departments across the enterprise (including human resources, accounts payable, finance, IT, risk management and beyond) can leverage the same system. The ability to transcend departments and processes make electronic forms technology an important tool to standardize processes and improve communication across the ecosystem.

7.    There is no reason not to.

Modern healthcare organizations are equipped with some of the most advanced technology on earth, and it’s time for their forms strategy to catch up.


So what is holding many hospital leaders back?  It typically comes down to one of two reasons.

  • The first is a lack of awareness that best-of-breed electronic forms technology exists. But, as we’ve outlined, not only is this technology available, but it plays a crucial role improving communication, operational efficiency, and quality of care delivered by the organization.
  • The second reason is that stakeholders may feel that they do not have the time, staff, or financial resources to properly manage their eForms technology. However, some eForm solution providers solve this common concern by offering managed form services. With those offerings the job of converting and managing electronic forms is handling by form specialists.  This takes the burden off of in-house healthcare staff and allows them to focus on more value-added, patient-centric tasks.


Key takeaway: The time to implement dedicated forms technology is now. The reason healthcare organizations should automate their forms has everything to do with the business process (and the importance of the process) surrounding that form. It is important for HIT decision makers to know that while a successful EHR implementation is a major milestone on the journey to a more sophisticated forms management strategy, a dedicated eForms solution will help hospitals take operational efficiency the extra mile while leaving no paper trail behind.

If your organization is still relying on pre-printed paper forms or has turned to the EHR for electronic forms features, there is a more sophisticated option.  The world of modern healthcare requires a new level of forms management that paper and clinical systems can’t deliver.


Think about it … forms play a role in every part of your healthcare organization. Now think about how improving these processes with electronic forms could transform your business.

Now is the time to rethink your options and form a new perspective on the value of healthcare forms.


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