Introduction

Patient forms, used in nearly every aspect of healthcare, are a vital piece of communication between clinicians and patients. As such, it is vital that these forms are easy to use and understand. With 20+ years of experience in the healthcare eForms and eSignature industry, we know a thing or two when it comes to form design. We also know what pitfalls you should actively look out for. 

Some healthcare forms can be difficult for patients to complete, which can lead to confusion or worse: missing information. Therefore, it is imperative to create a form that is clear, concise, and easy to use. It’s also important to create a form design that is optimal for any user across a multitude of devices.  

In recent weeks, we’ve followed Jenni Mihm, one of healthcare’s leading electronic form designers, to get you the best insights, tips, and tricks for your hospital’s form design. Today, we reveal Jenni’s top five pitfalls to avoid when creating your electronic patient forms.  

 

1. Don’t Forget User Device Size & Form Dimensions

2. Don’t Miss the End-User Process

3. Don't be Afraid of Change

4. Make Healthcare eForms Easy to Use

5. Consolidate Your Fields or You Could Get Dinged

 

1. Don’t Forget User Device Size & Form Dimensions

Unlike paper, electronic forms sometimes have size constraints that can change depending on the device being used. For instance, one department may use an iPad for bedside consents, while another department may use an LCD device, like Topaz. Jenni’s tip: make sure the dimensions on all devices are the same.

Jenni says, “When I first started, I pushed out my patient and form information as far as I could, which forced the viewer/patient to have to scroll from side to side because I did not put it in the dimensions of the iPad. Wow. That was a huge oversight that I am still cleaning up. I recommend that if your hospital is going to have mixed devices, such as Topaz tablets or iPads, the designer needs to have these tools on hand for viewability and testing.”

2. Don’t Miss the End-User Process

One of the worst things you can do as a form designer is to disconnect from the clinical user experience. Forms design is very much a hands-on experience; it is necessary to get insight into the user experience and think of ways to make it easier for the patient and clinicians.

Jenni says, “Sometimes in Healthcare IT, we think we know with certainty what a process is. But in all honesty, unless you are in the trenches, you have no idea. Even when I was working on the hospital floor, I thought I knew how all of our forms functioned, but I would often be surprised to learn that a certain form needed to be routed in numerous ways. So I discovered early on that you need to have a good

Support Header Image V2 stakeholder or end user to work with to ask questions and make sure that you understand the process. For instance, break down the process into simple terms like this: if an eForm goes from A to B to C, but B is just the hand off person, maybe they don't do anything with the form at all. Ask important questions, does person B even need the form? No, they don't need the form. So you can skip that process altogether and just get the form from A to C.”

 

3. Don't be Afraid of Change

Change in healthcare is slow sometimes, but change is inevitable, and this is particularly evident with healthcare forms. This is an important consideration for end users, both clinicians and patients, but it also applies to new form designers.

Jenni says,

“Change is inevitable in health care; however, some end users don't want to change what's worked for them for years. I’ll listen to those who are hesitant to change say, “For years, we have had people complete their forms here, this way, how do I do that digitally?” And I’ll explain, sometimes to deaf ears.

“For many clinicians, any change to a familiar process is hard, and you as the forms designer, you need to place more effort into making the process easier for them. Know that there is always going to be a learning curve, and the clinicians you are working with need to know that at first it's going to be hard. But once they are past this hurdle and educated on the new process the response is, “Oh, this is so much better!”

 

4. Make Healthcare eForms Easy to Use

Difficult forms will inevitably be abandoned, but a highly intelligent form designed with the user and patient in mind will always prevail.

“Forms designers have a major impact on this process,” says Jennie. “For instance, if a form is hard to use, the end user will not use it correctly, or worse, they will just abandon it altogether. I have had that happen, and I have learned in my time here that if there are things that I did not think of, the users will simply abandon it and go back to paper. It's very frustrating to watch, but also important lessons to learn. Furthermore, if the form is hard to use, the patient might not use it and lose confidence in the facility, and this can negatively impact the hospital’s HCAHPS Patient Satisfaction scores. However, a highly intelligent form that is properly designed from launch to completion, can speed up the process and make the end user and for patient or staff interaction with that form a positive experience.”

 

 

5. Consolidate Your Fields or You Could Get Dinged

From a patient perspective, have you ever filled out a paper form, only to turn the page and see information that you already wrote down is required again? We all have. It’s a universally frustrating experience for patients, and this frustration can often lead to incomplete forms. Incomplete forms can put you or your hospital at a compliance risk and jeopardize other form dependent processes, such as payment processing. The same issue applies to electronic forms and a notable example is form field consolidation.

Jenni explains, “Some patient forms that I have seen in the past or other facility form examples would have the patient's name at the top, the patient's name AGAIN within the content, and then the patient's name on the label. You may not know why it is there multiple times, but you know that it increases the opportunity for an incomplete form. So, ask yourself: Why do we need the patient's name in three different places?


“It only introduces opportunity for error, which could cost you with CMS. If the patient's name is filled out in two spots on the form, and the third spot is not filled out, and this form information makes the medical record incomplete, you can get into big trouble with CMS. It’s also very frustrating for patients to have to complete redundant fields. Therefore, approach form design with a ‘less is more’ mindset, but also make sure to work closely with your legal department when considering some of these changes.”

 

 

Conclusion

As Jenni Mihm, a 20-year veteran for healthcare eForm design, has revealed, there are several common but easily-avoidable pitfalls when it comes to designing an electronic patient form. After reading this blog post, we hope that you know how to avoid these common mistakes and put your hospital in a position for successful patient and clinician eForm adoption.


Take steps now to avoid common mistakes like forgetting user device size and dimensions or missing the end-user process altogether. Practice good form design to promote successful user adoption and embrace change. Wherever possible, consolidate unnecessary or redundant fields to make a form simple and easy to use.



     Have you experienced any of the pitfalls discussed?

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Anthony Delabano

Written by Anthony Delabano

With an unparalleled resourceful and systematic approach, Anthony Delabano (A-Train) continually innovates to bridge the gap between marketing and sales. In his free time, Anthony dedicates his passion driven ingenuity to his nonprofit, Foundation45, which gives hundreds of musicians and artists each year, a second chance at life through 100% free counseling services.