Every patient form used for every patient interaction is maintained by a hospital’s Forms Committee, which is usually “lorded” over by the director of health information management.
The average 1,500-bed hospital prints more than 96 million pieces of paper a year with a total price tag of about $3.8 million.
Put differently, that’s 64,000 pieces of paper per bed per year, at a cost of more than $2,500 per bed per year.
I think it’s safe to say that’s a lot of paper. And, if hospital forms aren’t properly created, managed and tracked by the Forms Overlord, also known as the Forms Committee Chairperson, it can yield big forms management problems.
Enter the “functional” Forms Committee.
This group creates a hospital’s global forms standards and ensures all forms meet the requirements. The Committee also assigns a unique ID number to each form, and confirms the forms are up-to-date and in-sync with ever-changing health care policy.
Forms Committees are often led by directors of HIM, and rightly so due to their interaction with every form from every department. If a form has an issue, it inevitably falls in the collective lap of the HIM team to pinpoint the issue and resolve it.
Properly functioning Forms Committees are like a hospital’s “forms police.” And, their enforcement definitely makes a difference.
After all, when hospitals have missing or ill-equipped Forms Committees, anarchy ensues and the Medical Records department is plagued with three common problems:
- Rogue forms. Any staff member with Microsoft Word and a printer can doctor a current form or create a new one. When these rogue forms show up at Medical Records, though, they can’t be assigned to a patient chart because there’s no unique form ID or it’s the wrong form number.
The Medical Records staff is left with a time-consuming paper chase to determine what form it is, who created it and how to properly file it. Put simply, it’s a form free-for-all that can pose legal, compliance and accreditation issues.
- Uniformity. Rogue forms haphazardly designed usually look different from one department to the next. Document standards are often overlooked and it’s tough to know if the most current form version is being used. Global forms standards are important and when they go unenforced, big problems easily rear their ugly heads.
Along with pinpointing the purpose, the Forms Committee also determines the form design – from fonts, colors and point sizes, to the placement of the barcode and the hospital logo.
- Consolidation. Health care providers with poor form management often have several forms that serve the same purpose. But with a functional Forms Committee, inventory is tightly managed and consolidated so only forms that are truly necessary are introduced.
At the start of this post, I mentioned that Medical Records departments in the average 1,500-bed hospital manage around 96 million forms a year. The last thing these health care providers want? More than one form doing the same job.
There’s one way all hospitals – with or without Forms Committees – can prevent form anarchy and staff members from going rogue: electronic forms.
By converting paper forms to electronic, every patient form for every patient interaction is accessed and stored online. There’s no risk. No version control. No duplication. And, no paper.
Just a really happy Medical Records department, which is a good thing. Trust me when I say: The director of HIM is not someone you want to see mad!