Use online, contactless, forms to improve patient intake and HIPAA compliance
The June 15th survey by the American Dental Association (ADA) Health Policy Institute states that 97% of dental offices are reporting as open for elective care. That is an increase from 90% in the first week of June. In early April, only 3% of dental practices were open for elective procedures. However, to successfully continue to serve patients safely, the business operations of dental practices are definitely changing.
Adjusting Business Practices
Dental practices are adjusting several aspects of their businesses — from communicating with patients to delivering care.
The goal is to keep patients and staff safe, deliver services efficiently, and keep patients satisfied to retain and grow business.
That means additional PPE, appointment scheduling changes, waiting room adjustments, and additional ways to provide contactless processes for patients.
From the June 10, 2020, DentistryIQ article, How dental office managers can take the lead in protecting their practices from COVID-19, the writer states, “If you minimize the amount of direct contact you have with patients, you can minimize the risk of interacting with asymptomatic COVID-19 patients. This is why you must be diligent with each patient interaction, which is a bit different than what many of us have done in the past.”
The operative word here is “different”. From our research, approximately 80% of Dentist Offices are still using paper or PDF forms for their health intake process — but an increasing number are moving to online forms.
In a recent Dental Economics article, Making the new-patient experience your standard of care, author Julie M. Gillis, DDS, AAACD states “We try to send our new patients any necessary paperwork ahead of their appointment so they have less to do when they arrive. We also have some patients fill out forms online, and then we already have the information entered when they arrive.”
And when patients complete paperwork ahead of time, their responses are more accurate. This is not only due to reduced time pressure, but also due to the information patients have available at home versus when they complete a form in the office or in their car.
One important way that dental practices are decreasing patient physical interaction is by replacing in-person tasks that can be digitized. And now with COVID-19, the move to digital forms has continued to increase.
In the June 18, 2020 DentistryIQ article, New fears in an already feared profession: Tips to consider when reopening your dental practice in the COVID-19 era, the writer states, “We’re all familiar with the stack of paperwork surrounding insurance, fees, and contracts. Convert these forms to digital documents when possible, then email necessary documents ahead of time and collect insurance information during pre-screening calls. Ask patients to complete all intake and medical history forms prior to their visit. These fillable forms can also be attached to your website.”
But that only handles part of what clients are asking for. If the patient needs to email a completed PDF form, that is potentially violating patient confidentiality rights. Or if they must print and complete the forms to bring to the practice, that impacts the contactless approach we are currently all striving for.
“Digital forms, accessible from mobile devices, are more convenient for patients. We know from our research that a digital intake process, from the health history to disclosures, was something practitioners wanted” says founder Jon Maichel Thomas. “It’s about convenience, security, and compliance,” says founder Pier Hegeman. “Health care providers need to obtain important information about their patients and need to be confident that their data is protected and compliant with health care laws. That’s where we come in.”
The Benefits of Online Forms
There are many benefits of moving to online purpose-built healthcare forms online versus PDF, printed documents, or even custom forms built on websites.
Improving your patient experience — Allow patients to complete forms on their own time from any device, decrease their time in the waiting room, and remove frustration with PDF or printed forms.
Increasing contactless services — Keep staff and patients safer by minimizing the interaction between them including waiting room time and sharing of documents and writing instruments.
Increasing practice efficiency — New patient intake can be done more quickly. Online forms can reduce the hand entering of data or form follow-up which saves the administrative team time.
Improving communication with patients — Faster follow-ups with patients plus the ability to add or change new forms quickly and easily.
Improving tracking and reporting — Bring your form data into a centralized database that allows dental practices to be able to search and report on specific data.
Improving patient privacy and regulatory compliance — Most website platforms are not HIPAA compliant, and collecting patient PHI through non-compliant forms may open your practice up to the risk of regulatory fines and significant PR damage.