Effective forms management improves healthcare data quality

Effective forms management improves healthcare data quality

When was the last time you thought about the forms strategy in your organization? Most of us think about forms as a clerical activity but proper management of patient forms drives important clinical and business initiatives such as patient satisfaction, patient quality scores, and care coordination analytics. The demand for clinical data and research performed by Healthcare Data Analytics is growing exponentially. With so much emphasis in healthcare put on collecting quality data, information exchange, analytics, patient generated health data, and more, it’s surprising how little attention is put on the way this important information is collected.

Forms remain an important method of collecting structured information in healthcare – and patients expect to be able to fill them out on their mobile phones before they get to their doctor’s office, while in the office, or even afterwards.  In fact, the demand for more granular data from the patient in remote locations as well as in healthcare facilities is only growing as regulations and smart IT systems require very specific data from the patient that cannot be obtained in any other way.  A patient facing form is the most common way of collecting this data because “seamless integration” between multiple systems, workflows, stakeholders, and institutions remains elusive.

Healthcare organizations need to collect structured data in administrative forms, institutional forms, and clinical forms – across devices and locations.  Given the importance of form data, it’s time for organizations to look at forms as more than just a cost of doing business and instead realize how effective forms technology can improve their organization’s informational models and increase staff productivity. Forms aren’t an expense to be dreaded, they’re an investment in improved data – which is already valuable digital asset but will only grow over time.

Managing the hundreds of types of forms needed daily can be a challenging task for any organization that doesn’t put the right forms management process and tool in place. Unfortunately, many organizations have relied on their EHR platform to be their forms engine and don’t think they have much of a choice.  The proprietary engine inside the EHR is great in the short term; however, an EHR-focused implementation is a long-term detriment because forms are necessary across more of healthcare delivery organization’s workflow than what an EHR delivers. And, EHR based forms aren’t mobile-first and easy to delivery across locations.

Smart healthcare organizations are increasingly decoupling forms from their EHRs; they’re offloading forms programming and management to outside partners that can deliver superior capabilities. And they’re not looking back. 3rd Party forms solutions now provide seamless EHR integration but allow far more workflows to be automated. EHR-based forms are often half baked and/or expensive to implement because they require specialized consultants so external forms vendors are making self-service forms easier.  Plus, EHR-based forms can only really be used for clinical forms and not all the other non-clinical administrative areas where data is still being manually captured.

As the role of forms in modern healthcare continues to grow and become more important, we are seeing top healthcare organizations build effective partnerships with forms management tools that integrate with EHRs.

On the one end of the spectrum we see internal institutional teams created to provide for all the needs of the organization through self-service forms tools.  On the other end of the spectrum we see organizations outsourcing the full people, process, and technology related to form creation, management, and distribution.  Then, there are many in the middle with a mix of in house form creation and management together with outsourced form creation.

The key strategy is to assess your form requirements, treat it as a long-term IT investment, streamline the process, understand that forms need to be entered anywhere and anytime that’s convenient to patients, and create an effective strategy that works across your entire organization.

Patients are looking for a friction-free forms workflow across your organization across omnichannel devices.  They are increasingly expecting forms to be electronic and accessible on whatever device they choose, especially their mobile devices. Plus, patients want their forms to be smart and connected to their EHR so the data is easily available to their provider across all their systems.

Can you do that with your current technology?

As technology evolves, the need to capture granular data is only becoming more important.  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 strategy.  You have survived this long, but modern healthcare requires a new level of data collection and connectivity that paper and most EHRs just can’t provide. The longer you wait, the longer it will take to migrate.

FormFast is a proud sponsor of The Healthcare IT Guy blog. With 25 years exclusively focused on healthcare needs and over 1100 hospital clients, FormFast is recognized as the industry leader in electronic forms and document workflow technology. FormFast’s enterprise software platform integrates with EHRs and other core systems to automate required documents, capturing data and accelerating workflows associated with them. By using FormFast, healthcare organizations achieve new levels of standardization and operational efficiency, allowing them to focus on their core mission – delivering quality care. Learn more about FormFast at formfast.com.

Shahid N. Shah

Shahid N. Shah

Shahid Shah is an internationally recognized enterprise software guru that specializes in digital health with an emphasis on e-health, EHR/EMR, big data, iOT, data interoperability, med device connectivity, and bioinformatics.

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