Rethink forms (Part 2): 7 reasons why modern healthcare organizations need a dedicated eForms vendor

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.
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As discussed in the article, “Rethink forms (Part 1): Exploring 3 options for healthcare form management,” if your organization is still relying on pre-printed paper forms or has turned to the electronic health record (EHR) for electronic forms features, there is a more sophisticated option. 

Today’s leading healthcare organizations are turning to electronic forms technology that can deliver best-of-breed capabilities with a high level of customization and integration. 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.

Here are 7 reasons why modern healthcare organizations need 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 patients 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 a healthcare organization’s EHR or patient portal, providing the forms features needed 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; there is simply never enough of it. With a dedicated eForms solution in place, time spent tracking down the latest version is eliminated.

A recent study of customers of a leading eForms vendor, showed that with the eForm solution in place, nurses added 10-plus 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.

6. Automate non-clinical documents across the enterprise.

EHR-based forms are solely focused 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.

In modern healthcare, advanced technology is increasingly playing a role in almost all processes, 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 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 handled 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 healthcare information technology 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.

The world of modern healthcare requires a new level of forms management that paper and clinical systems can’t deliver. Learn more about the value of electronic forms technology for improving healthcare processes.

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.