Why You Need Dynamic Forms in Your Medical Practice

Author: Ravi Kalidindi
A doctor holding an iPad smiles because his patients are happy to fill out their dynamic forms for appointments.

Many healthcare organizations offer patients the chance to fill out their forms digitally, saving time and trouble for everyone involved. But what does shifting forms to the digital medium involve?

It turns out that if you simply copy the contents of your paper forms over to a static electronic format, you’re missing out on much of the power digital can offer.

Instead of a preset sequence of forms with static lists of questions, dynamic forms adapt to the person using them, greatly improving form completion rates, data capture, and patient experience. Let’s talk about why.

Problems With Static Forms

Dynamic forms display or hide questions, sections, or subsequent forms based on certain conditions being met. Without this capability, patients receive a digital version of paper forms — potentially an overwhelming “packet” of 20–30 pages. Whole sections or even pages may not apply to them.

When a patient receives a large “stack” of forms, even digitally, frustrations emerge:

  • Form fatigue: Seeing so many fields, especially irrelevant ones, overwhelms patients.
  • Patient confusion: Patients aren’t clear regarding which sections they need to fill out and which are unnecessary.
  • Low patient satisfaction: The patient experience suffers when they’re required to complete so much unnecessary information.

Difficulties arise for your staff as well:

  • Incomplete/inaccurate data capture: As form fatigue sets in, patients may start entering responses without thinking just to finish, leading to inaccurate data capture.
  • Difficult to review: Staff or providers must look through all the excess and irrelevant data fields to find pertinent information.
  • Increased costs: Staff must spend extra time following up with patients to get accurate information when they make mistakes or don’t finish because of form fatigue.
  • Maintenance nightmare: Healthcare facilities of any size have many nuanced and custom needs, which static forms just can’t address well. Without dynamic functionality, staff must maintain separate form packets with duplicate forms, which leads to duplicated effort when form changes are needed.

Dynamic forms, however, are much more than digital versions of their paper counterparts, and they allow you to take full advantage of the opportunities modern technology provides.

Infographic: Why You Need Dynamic Forms in Your Medical Practice

Benefits of Dynamic Forms

With dynamic, conditional display, patients no longer have to wade through sections of irrelevant material. Instead, they see only the forms and fields pertinent to them. This greatly reduces overwhelm as well as the time it takes to complete forms packets.

For staff, dynamic forms decrease review time and costs and increase the accuracy of data capture. Updating forms also becomes more straightforward, since one change to a reused form gets propagated to all relevant form packets.

The secret behind dynamic forms is the use of conditional display variables — factors that automatically indicate to the system which components of a form to show a patient, and which to hide from them.

Common Conditional Display Variables

Some of the most common conditional display variables for triggering dynamic form behavior include location, provider, gender, age, and chief complaint. Below, you can see several examples of how a variable might work in practice.

Example 1: Chief Complaint

An FQHC providing dental, women’s health, behavioral, and primary care adjusts which history of present illness (HPI) form they present to patients based on their chief complaint. For Simple Interact users, this also means auto-generated provider notes get added to the appropriate patient encounter.

Further, the facility may also choose to show patients information about ancillary services, research studies, or trials that might be of interest for their particular condition.

Example 2: Appointment Type

If a patient chooses telehealth, a dynamic display will show them a telehealth consent form to sign. It will also know to require them to submit images of their ID and insurance card, since they won’t be able to present these in person to front office staff.

Example 3: Age

Perhaps when a patient indicates anxiety as the reason for their visit, you want them to complete an ADHD screening. Since there is an adult and child version of this questionnaire, the system can use the patient’s age as a condition to present them with the proper form.

Or, perhaps your state requires a parent or legal guardian’s signature on a consent form before you can treat a minor. The system then displays the relevant consent form only when data shows the patient’s age as under 18, rather than showing it unnecessarily to everyone.

Example 4: Gender

As patients fill out forms in a primary care facility, dynamic display can show or hide fields depending on the patient’s gender (and age, too). For instance, the system wouldn’t ask a young woman for the date of her last mammogram, but it would ask an older man a question regarding prostate cancer screening.

Example 5: Provider

A multi-provider practice may need dynamic form behavior associated with different providers. For instance, some providers may accept insurance and some may not. In such cases, dynamic forms can display consents for patient acknowledgement/acceptance of fees for service when necessary.

Why Aren’t All Forms Dynamic?

While most companies that offer digital forms provide some level of dynamic functionality, customization varies greatly.

For example, we’ve spoken with clients who requested changes — such as ad hoc consent forms — from their previous vendors. The implementation took months to years. Since conditional behavior lives at the core of our platform, Simple Interact could handle similar requests in just weeks.

Quote Card: Why You Need Dynamic Forms in Your Medical Practice

Should You DIY Your Dynamic Forms?

Some systems provide options for your in-house staff to build forms through dynamic form builders. But medical industry teams aren’t UX (user experience) experts, and form creation isn’t the best use of their time.

Dynamic functionality isn’t straightforward. It’s not as simple as clicking a “required field” box. We suggest letting your team be the experts in their area and relying on experienced experts to craft effective, dynamic forms that actually achieve your business goals.

At Simple Interact, our team has extensive UX expertise and experience in healthcare. We take a holistic approach to form building, always keeping your organizational goals top of mind. While DIY form builders seem appealing, they ultimately fail to facilitate high patient participation and satisfaction.

You don’t have to try to solve a usability problem without usability expertise. Contact Simple Interact to find out what we can do for your organization.

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