Again, Capterra has a really nice list created for you – they evaluate various vendors for these features and have done all the legwork for you already.
You can start with as few or as many of these features. Just make sure that whichever vendor you go with, allows you to grow as your business needs grow.
Forms Automation Features
Approval Process Control
At a minimum, you are going to need some kind of approval processes within your business (i.e not everyone can publish forms willy nilly)
Archiving & Retention
Think about it.. You are going to need to be able to have different versions of forms (and retain the history of the same). As time progresses, you are going to need to update your forms.. But at the same time, your previous patients have already filled out older versions of the same form. You are going to need to retain those earlier versions as well.
Creating these forms is not really the job of one person. Usually you need to be able to collaborate between various offices to ensure that each practice/specialty’s needs are satisfied. Although not 100% required, this really does help larger, multi speciality practices.
This is a life savior. When you first begin, you will probably not think about why you would want to search for specific words/terms within all the documents you have. But guess what, you are going to need to, in the feature. Make sure that your vendor allows this.
Drag & Drop
You are not a designer, nor are your employees designers. You shouldn’t have to spend a whole lot of time trying to design forms. These days, drag and drop images, logos, form elements etc are not hard to do. Your vendor should support that.
Full Text Search
As mentioned above, this becomes a very important feature.. To be able to type anything and search across all the documents (full text search is what the geeks call it)
Remote Document Access
Let’s face it, you are not going to sit in front of your computer all the time. Neither are your employees. If documents need to be updated, having the ability to access your documents anytime, anywhere from home or from work becomes really important. Make sure that security is adhered to and your vendor’s implementation of remote document access should make your life easier.
Really nice to have for larger practices.
This is a must have from every vendor. Simple text editing should be available by default. Just like wordpress.
Without version control, your life is going to be hellish. Make sure that your vendor supports version control of these documents.
This has become so easy to do these days that you really cannot avoid it. Simply have your patients sign via their fingers or even initial documents (these are legally acceptable as signatures)
Medical Practice Management Features
You may or may not want tight integration of these digital patient intake forms with your medical practice management suite. While this becomes a more comprehensive list of features to have, they really enhance seamless workflows and reduction in operational overhead (i.e. lesser FTEs required to run your practice)
It’s not a deal breaker, but to be able to handle patient intake tied to DME Claim Status Inquiry Status (CSI) – Same & Similar really helps your claims workflow. You will be able to tell if your patient has been issued a same or similar equipment by someone else.
The more data that you have about a patient, the better. Could you pull up a patient’s past medications and fill history from community pharmacies? Yup, you can and you can also import this data straight into a patient record.
EMR / EHR
The more tightly your forms and intake process are integrated with your EMR/EHR, the more savings you incur.
This, of course, is a non negotiable item and almost every vendor that plays in this space would support HIPAA compliance (they should give you a BAA and BIA as well)
Insurance Eligibility Verification
This is a life savior. Being able to perform insurance eligibility verification not only saves you time, future billing and collections headaches but it also saves your patient future headaches.
If you are a multi office practice or hospital, this is what separates the kids from the big boys. Your patient intake software should be able to handle multiple offices, specialties and multiple locations.
This one’s a given as most larger practices/hospitals have needs of multiple physicians that are required.
The minute an existing patient checks in, your patient intake software should have the ability to view their balance dues and anything outstanding should be paid up front. Why in the world would you service a patient that has balances overdue? Sure, you love your work, but you are not a charity, are you? Being able to bill a patient and collect from them at the earliest only helps you run your business better.
If the digital intake software ties into your patient portal or at least behaves as a minimalistic patient portal, that’s even better. One challenge that has been discovered with patient portals is that not many people like using it. It’s not just due to the fact that it’s yet another userid, password to remember.. But also due to the fact that it presents only partial information. So, the easier your vendor makes things, the better it is for your practice
Goes without saying that the ability of your digital patient intake to tie directly into patient records, the better it is for your business. Why have another standalone, bolt on system where you have to manually transfer data to/from?
Most patient intake systems would already do this as this is the main purpose of these software.
This is where your business really starts to shine further and differentiate itself from others. Try to choose a vendor that also ties in patient scheduling with digital intakes. Think of the time your office spends in scheduling patients. The calls, the phone tag, the back/forth and the wasted cycles that are part of patient scheduling can all be a thing of the past with the right vendor. Make sure you opt for this capability.
Technically, it is not very difficult for your patient intake software to also be able to handle physician scheduling based on what the patient is coming in for. However, as I have noticed while talking to many practice managers, most doctors are very picky about who they want to see, when they want to see them, what they want to do with their schedules etc.
Convert your existing forms
Most vendors these days would offer you to convert your existing forms for free (it’s in their best interests). Do avail this facility and choose a vendor that offers it to you. While it isn’t incredibly hard to convert your existing forms, why not avail this facility while you have it?
Make sure that your digital intake form platform allows for customization of your forms (while maintaining versions and historical changes/audit trails). You are going to need this capability to run your business as usual (lord knows it is not that easy to keep having to retrain your front office personnel).
Integrate with your website
Personally, I have always found this to be incredibly important.. To be able to collect patient information right from the website itself. But that’s also because I take a very marketing driven approach to my consulting business. Have people make their appointment online, fill out their data online as much as possible – once the patient leaves your website, they tend to forget getting these done.
Use your own branding
Any digital intake form/kiosk vendor worth their salt is going to allow you to use your own branding (unless you opted for a free version). This is entirely your choice, but personally, I advocate using your own branding wherever possible.
Flexible question formats
You are going to need your kiosk or digital intake software to allow you to create questions in any format that you want. Almost like you do it in your current PDF/word document. Most vendors do allow you to do this and this part really differentiates the kids from the big boys. Make sure your vendor supports it.
I strongly believe (much like the rest of the research shows) that most patients are living in a mobile world these days and that this trend will only continue further. While creation of the forms need to be desktop friendly (since you are not going to do this every day), the patients should have the forms in a mobile friendly format. In other words, you want to capture a patient’s cell phone information and you want to have a relationship with their mobile devices. That only strengthens your relationship with them and allows you to optimize your business even further (plus helps you with care management). Make sure your vendor has mobile friendly forms or supports mobile apps.
Include reminder opt-in in your form
Again, following my marketing driven business mindset, I strongly recommend this feature (and to make this part and parcel of your practice). I suggest that patients be given an option to opt-out of a reminder service and that by default all patients using this service should opt-in while they are filling out the form.
Customize reminder message
Most patients will not fill out all the information at the same time and won’t complete the form immediately. What your software needs to do is to gently remind them (nudge them if you will) to fill out the remaining information before they come in to visit you. I have seen some vendors sending out generic reminder messages. The ability to customize reminder messages is crucial (in my book).
SMS, voice or email
These are not hard to do these days (at all). Services like AWS, Azure, Twilio etc allow you to easily send reminders and notifications via SMS, voice or email. Use them ! Your vendor should support these options. Personally, I feel that these options make the difference between patients conforming to your business’ processes vs not.
Sync with your Google calendar
Come on… in these busy days, even you use a google calendar (or some other calendar) on your phone. Don’t you? Don’t you hate it when you get a registration confirmation and cannot easily sync that event to your phone’s calendar? Think about it – it isn’t very hard to do (from a software POV). Your vendor should support these.
Depending on the kind of practice you run, this becomes quite important. Recurring appointments means recurring revenues and that means a full schedule. Never miss this opportunity! I have seen several vendors not being able to support recurring appointments – maybe they don’t see the value in being able to set up multiple bookings up front? Push for this (again, depending on your business).
Custom cancellation policy
You should be able to customize your cancellation policy and keep it updated at all times. Your patients should be able to view the cancellation policy that your business provides at all times.
Welcome Email Sender
This is, a patient engagement feature that I push for and more importantly, a very important part of your patient relationship management process. Think about it – whenever you sign up for any service online, don’t you get a welcome email that tells you about their company, their business, what you can achieve by using their service, how to use their service etc? Every industry knows that this is a crucial step in creating a relationship with their customer. Embrace it.
Track Registration Progress
As I mentioned before, not every patient is going to sit through 20 pages of your patient registration packet in one shot. They are going to fill out parts of that questionnaire and keep coming back to it.. If you remind them to. Your kiosk or digital intake software should really be doing the heavy lifting of tracking registration progress and be sending out reminders to patient to fill out the rest.
I believe that patient intake should really allow for further patient engagement and care management as well, but I am going to reserve my opinions for another post. A few things that I consider important are as below (You can find a similar list on Capterra as well)
- Care Planning
- Mobile Access
- Patient Education
- Personal Health Record
- Progress Tracking
- Self Management
- Bill Payment
- Lab Results
- Prescription Renewals
- Secure Messaging
- Video Consultations
- Care Plans
- Care Summaries
Want to consider non medical intake forms software available that are mostly free and that can be customized?
Here are a few options
|Platform Name||Formsite||Emailmeform||Cognito forms||Zoho||Jotform||123contactform||Wufoo|
|Results per form||10||–||–||–||–||–|
|Storage||50 MB||100 MB||100 MB||–||100 MB||–||–|
|Total No. Submission Storage||–||–||–||–||500||–||–|
|Submissions / Month||–||100||500||10,000||100||100||100|
|SSL + Field Encryption||–||–||–||–||Yes||–||–|
|3rd Party Apps integration||–||–||–||–||–||Yes||–|
|Live Chat Support||–||–||–||–||–||–||–|
|Built-in and Custom Themes||–||–||–||Yes||–||–||–|
|API Requests||–||–||–||–||–||100 per day||100|
|“Form Closed” Message||–||–||–||–||–||–||–|
|Google Analytics Tracking||–||–||–||–||–||–||–|
Where do I go from here?
If your interest is piqued in examining the feasibility of digital intake platforms or kiosks, the next step would be to reach out to your EMR/PM account manager. Your EMR vendor may have an integrated kiosk that can be purchased affordably, or they may have already negotiated a strong integration with a preferred kiosk vendor.
If that is not the case, there are many vendors that can be found via Google (more than what I have listed above).
For most practices, there is a lot of efficiency to gain (and potential patient satisfaction upsides) to moving away from the deluge of scanned images and PDFs stored in the patient documentation section of a practice’s EMR and, instead, using technology to discreetly collect patient-generated information.