Rethink forms (Part 1): Exploring 3 options for healthcare form management

10:27 AM

Even after implementing an electronic health record (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 back 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 #1: Do 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 worked (in theory), 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 #2: Build 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 cannot 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 #3: Find 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 ROI in as little as a few months, as form completion, processing 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.

In Part 2 of this article, which will be posted Thursday, November 2nd, discover the seven reasons why modern healthcare organizations need a dedicated eForms vendor. In the meantime, learn more about this topic here

About the Author:

Robin McKee, MS, RN is a Healthcare Informatics Analyst at FormFast. As a core member of FormFast’s product management team, McKee connects directly with the clinical community to gather the information needed to help ensure FormFast understands and meets the needs of their growing list of healthcare customers.