New Patient Forms … or Why do doctors torture their patients?

I recently turned 52 and my wife decided it was time for me to make an appointment with the urologist for THE EXAM.  I knew why I was going and what was going to happen, my wife knew, and the urology office certainly knew.  When I arrived at the office, I was handed the dreaded clipboard attached to which was no less than fourteen pages of new patient intake forms. 

Understand that I was already ornery knowing what was to come during THE EXAM so filling out these forms did not improve my mood.  The experience went down hill from there.  At the top of each of the fourteen pages, I was required to hand write my name and my date of birth.  On the first few pages, I legibly wrote ALLEN FRIEDMAN and X/XX/XXXX (no I’m not going to share).  By the last several pages, I had resorted to drawing a set of squiggly lines instead. 

The rest of the document required entry of a wide variety of information ranging from my home address and insurance information to my astrological sign and my preferences regarding bedding thread count.  I answered dozens of questions about my various habits, health conditions, pharmaceuticals, surgeries, procedures, places where I experienced pain, and the date of birth of my deceased poodle. 

Following the health questions, the next set of documents were a series of agreements and disclosures under which, I am certain, I permitted the urologist to see my tax returns, share my internet browsing habits with the NSA, and commence an illicit relationship with said deceased poodle.  As you can see, I carefully read each of these documents to ensure that I wasn’t agreeing to be his gardener. 

I am not suggesting that a doctor should not collect and review a thorough medical history of a new patient.  Nor am I indicating that his office should not protect its tushy from the myriad legal dangers lurking around every corner.  What I am saying, and please hear me, is that those handwritten forms filled out five minutes before they take your blood pressure ACCOMPLISH NOTHING but carpal tunnel syndrome. 

On this one set of forms, there were over 350 different check boxes.  I swear I’m not exaggerating. Of course, the form was in 10 point type so I probably checked off a few incorrect items (I’m pretty sure I’ve never had a C-Section or hemorrhoid surgery) simply because I COULDN’T READ THE DAMN FORM. 

I was there for THE EXAM.  I was not there to determine whether I was fertile, had a bulging disk, or to cure my addiction to Peanut M&M’s.  Again, I was there for THE EXAM.  I wanted to get in, get out (pun absolutely intended) and be done with the experience. 

So, what is the moral to this story? 

First, make sure your patients have access to the new patient forms BEFORE THEY GET TO YOUR OFFICE.   Do everything possible to encourage them to fill out the forms at home where they (a) have time to review them carefully and (b) can find their reading glasses.  When the patient calls in to make the appointment, let them know that they can find the forms online.  Send them emails and/or texts reminding them about the online forms.  Offer chocolates and flowers to anyone who fills out the forms before they arrive for their appointment.   

Second, make the forms easy to fill out.  I have created fillable forms for several clients that allow their patients to fill out the forms on their computer.  They just print the forms out and bring them to the appointment.  These forms eliminate all repetition (you only have to enter your name and date of birth once), print out in a completely legible format, and include tips for answering some of the more esoteric questions (eg. During the preceding 90 days, have you consumed the raw gonads of a sea urchin?  No, really, this is a thing.  It’s considered a delicacy.). 

Third, design the forms to be relevant to the nature of the appointment.  If you patient is male, they shouldn’t have to answer whether they can still become pregnant.  If your patient is a sane adult, don’t attach a bunch of forms that need to be filled out by a guardian.  If you are going to scan your patient’s insurance card when they arrive at the office, don’t make them provide a bunch of information that is already on the insurance card.

I know you all want to know how THE EXAM worked out.  Apparently, I’m just fine.  Complaining to my wife about THE EXAM, however, had a different result.  She suggested that I try passing a bowling ball through my ‘you know what’ and then we could discuss my whining.


About the Author: AF

Allen Friedman Founder and CEO of Techaerus LLC

Allen Friedman is the owner and CEO of Techaerus LLC, an office efficiency consulting firm. He is also a licensed attorney. Allen founded and managed one of the largest consumer collections law firms in the country and managed over 50 attorneys as well as hundreds of non-attorney staff. Prior to founding that firm, he opened and managed the New York and Michigan operations for the largest consumer collections firm in the United States. Throughout his career, Allen has always placed great emphasis on ensuring that investments in office technology provide the greatest possible returns. In order to achieve these returns, he focuses on three pillars of office management; asset management, training, and automation. His expertise includes document/image management, software and hardware integration, training, and process management and automation. Allen lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with his wife Amy, his children Cassidy and Gideon, and two adorable dogs named Roxie (a labradoodle) and Bentley (an Old English Sheepdog).