There is no doubt about the safety and efficiency impact EMRs have made possible for hospitals worldwide, effectively ushering in the age of modern healthcare. Systems like Epic, Cerner, MEDITECH, and Allscripts advance enterprise-wide automation across clinical and administrative processes. And though these efficiencies are tremendous, EMR design tends to orient primarily around a clinical workflow. Meaning that despite all of their immense technological capacity and utility, when it comes to patient-facing forms workflows, they do have an Achilles heel. 

These limitations should not be looked at with harsh condemnation of their overall systems. After all, no one can be all things to all people. So, as they say “There’s an app for that.” Simply take a walk along the HIMSS exhibitor floor, and you’ll see acres of vendors ready to step into those clinical and administrative process niches that your EMR doesn’t encompass—or at least not very successfully.

 A great case in point? Electronic forms. Most EMRs come with some level of baked-in eForms capabilities, but again, those pesky limitations make their presence known. Whenever I talk with a customer about unaddressed paper gaps in their EMR, there are generally three common scenarios they cite: 

  • Forms requiring a patient signature.

Most EMRs don’t provide effective ways to capture patients’ electronic signatures on a host of forms. EMR-offered forms are often very basic, strictly templated and have no data entry capability. Patients must review the form information on paper or a separate screen, then use a standalone LCD device to apply an electronic signature that’s not explicitly connected to the electronic document they’re “signing”—thus, creating a disconnected patient experience.

 This process gap happens most often with applications in the registration or patient intake area. Some EMRs lack even this basic eSignatures functionality. And few if any allow for the easy addition of custom fields or data entry—something that’s become more vital with today’s specialized care and compliance mandates.

  • Government forms.

Government- or industry-mandated forms, such as a Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP) and POLST (Provider Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment), consistently remain on paper because government forms offer zero form design latitude. These forms must look exactly as provided by state or federal government.

With more flexible forms design capabilities within Access, hospitals can easily redesign these forms to fit with their existing EMR user experience, while keeping the format in line with government standards.

  • Informed consents and co-signed forms.

There are also processes, such as Informed Consents, when presenting forms for signature to the patient on a tablet at their bedside is more feasible than handing them an LCD pad that’s tethered to the cumbersome workstation on wheels (WOW). Also, these forms generally require both the patient and doctor to electronically sign. The mobility and the multi-signature challenges prove to be a problem for EMRs and their basic forms functionality.

An ideal Informed Consent allows for custom information about the specific procedure a patient will undergo, not a generic “catch-all” form that runs the risk of leaving patients inadvertently uninformed. At Access, we’ve put a huge focus on this big pain point for hospital EMRs.

Our eForms let you dynamically populate specific procedural content, such as procedure description, risks and more as needed for accurate, complete consents every time. Furthermore, checking boxes such as “I do or do not wish to accept blood products” are not any issue for Access eForms. 

EMRs work spectacularly in the context they were primarily designed for, which is clinician documentation. I always tell my customers if your EMR can digitize a paper-based process that is the ideal situation. Making processes inherent within your EMR is absolutely the gold standard. However, if your EMR falls short in a critical paper form process, you have an effective and powerful alternative in eForms and eSignatures solutions that are purpose-built for converting these paper gaps into tablet-enabled electronic—and highly efficient—processes.

Check out Access’s EMR-integrated eForms solutions for Epic, MEDITECH, Cerner and more.


Cody Strate

Written by Cody Strate

For more than 15 years, Cody has provided sales and marketing leadership with the goal of providing the smoothest, easiest, and most pleasurable customer experience imaginable. Cody is a Forbes Communication Council member and lives in Colorado with his wife, two kids, and two dogs.