The hieroglyphic squiggles of doctors may be facing extinction.
Our data has found that more than half of patients reported the use of paper intake forms the last time they visited a doctor. That’s changing quickly, however. Digitized data capture is having a profound impact on healthcare, and we expect it to be the norm in clinics soon.
In fact, many providers have identified digital data capture adoption as a top priority, according to a survey by Foxit Software. The reason? Better outcomes and an improved patient experience, despite the increased security concerns.
Here’s why digital data capture is transforming healthcare.
Better Patient Outcomes
Digital data capture makes for much cleaner patient records —records that can significantly improve the quality of patient outcomes.
Tracking and maintaining a patient’s treatment history is significantly easier with digitization, Junie Rutkevich at Digital Health Buzz! writes. Healthcare providers don’t have to create a physical file at every appointment. Once digitized, that history can be accessed quickly, something that can literally be the difference between life and death in a medical emergency.
Patients can better access their health records, too, and share those with the providers they choose.
Digital records also help doctors and nurses treat patients better in non-emergencies. Digitized data is easier to share, which means everyone can get an accurate view of a patient's medical history and health issues, says the team at Jotform.
Data can be consolidated, too, and analyzed in a way that makes spotting health trends significantly easier. “By analyzing this information, medical professionals can respond to issues faster and take preventative measures on health issues that might have otherwise gone unnoticed,” the Jotform team writes.
A Better Patient Experience
Digitizing data capture — patient intake forms, in particular —can have a hugely positive effect on the patient experience.
Filling out countless forms is unpleasant for patients, says Jim Higgins, founder and CEO of Solutionreach. “Not only does it take up time in the waiting room (when they may already be feeling a bit anxious), but it also makes the experience that much more difficult for patients. Allowing patients to take care of this task before even leaving home is an incredible benefit for patients.”
Digitized forms can be a particularly powerful way to improve the patient experience in the wake of the pandemic, writes the team at Experian Health. “After the uncertainty and loss of control over the last year, patients want autonomy and choice. Initiating a smooth patient journey through online pre-registration, patient portals, virtual waiting rooms and digital scheduling can contribute to this.”
Improving the patient experience was one of the major reasons that MIMIT Health in Melrose Park, Illinois, transitioned to digitized patient registration and consent forms, says its director of digital systems, Manish Goomar. “What really made us go for it was the customer experience,” he says.
A New Concern for Security and Compliance
Digitizing data capture isn’t without potential drawbacks, however. As well as its many benefits, digitized data capture has renewed healthcare providers' focus on data security and compliance.
“It isn’t difficult to see why many healthcare organizations have digitized the collection of patient data,”' says Tim Mullahy, an executive vice president and managing director at Liberty Center One. “Unfortunately, what a lot of them do not realize is that they may inadvertently be violating HIPAA in doing so.”
It is vital that providers choose tools that are not only HIPAA compliant, but also take steps to encrypt and protect patient data, says Rebecca Herold, CEO and founder of The Privacy Professor and member of IEEE.
“Encrypting data provides some of the most effective security to prevent unauthorized access to patient data, and protection to the integrity of the data which is vital to patient care and health,” she says. “Using encryption not only protects data from unauthorized access, and protects from privacy breaches, but it also supports a wide range of regulatory and other types of legal requirements.”
Security concerns aside, the benefits of digitized data capture are clear. But as our survey demonstrates, it could still be some time before most patients stop filling in paperwork by hand.