Forms Follow Functions

I went to a new dentist recently and was handed the obligatory forms to fill out. When I say handed it was more like nudged. As in the clipboard was nudged in my direction. No explanations – more like a nudge and perhaps a faint grunt. No smile, no words of welcome. That’s another story, this is about what I was handed.

Now understand I pretty much KNOW what I was handed. (But that is not always the case with a new patient). The Patient Privacy Forms with accompanying acknowledgment. The arbitration agreement mandated by the office’s malpractice insurance and of course the actual 4 (count ‘em) four page intake form. It took a good 10 minutes to fill out this form, however I noticed that the front office person didn’t even look at it when I handed it back, and the dentist gave it no more than a 10 second glance through. The saddest part of this experience was watching the elderly couple next to me, the husband read each question to his wife then recorded her answers on the forms. They were still at it when I returned to the waiting room from my dental exam.

It was clear these forms were “off the rack”, the type you buy from a dentist supply place, also clear I wasted a good deal of my time filling out information that was not applicable and downright UN-necessary. Why did this happen? It happened because the office didn’t think about MY time, just their own. You see it’s easier just to buy generic forms then spend the time to create a form tailored to just the actual information needed to treat the patient.

Take a good look at what you hand a brand new patient. Are you using “off the rack” products? Frankly both your intake forms and your privacy practices should be tailored to your specific practice, and your consent to treat is tailored to state scope of practice laws, so even that isn’t a one size fits all product. If your intake forms contain a place for insurance information and you know the patient is a cash patient – or if your forms have information related to a work related accident, and your patient wasn’t in one, well,- cross out those boxes. Communicate with your patient, what is necessary and what isn’t, take the time to explain what you need, why you need it and why you appreciate his or her time in filling out these important pieces of paper. Stop the grunting and start talking.

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