They say ‘time is money’, and this principle is crucial for any business that bills according to time. However, time wasted in a healthcare practice negatively impacts the availability of healthcare to patients in desperate need of medical treatment. Therefore, when clinical documentation consumes more time than is necessary, the practice should re-evaluate its workflow to implement alternative options.
This article presents two actual scenarios of how customised clinical forms have caused substantial time savings in healthcare practices. We will, furthermore, explore how customisation can reduce the time spent and human error on the completion of forms.
1. The Covid-19 antigen test
Our first healthcare practice is General Practitioners that administers Covid-19 antigen tests and sends those results to the medical aids. Before they configured a custom form in their software, they captured a patient’s information, administered the test and took a photo of the result presented on the test kit. The image was then downloaded onto a computer, uploaded into an email, and sent to the medical aid with an accompanying letter. This dragging process would take 15 to 20 minutes per test case and could be frustrating to all staff involved.
With the configuration of a custom clinical form, the practice’s workflow changed for the better and expedited the process immensely. The patient’s information is now captured in the software, and the user can automatically upload the test result into the clinical form. In addition, the custom form allows the user to populate and send an email with all necessary information about the patient together with the test result. This new workflow saves 10 to 15 minutes per test case, amounting to an astonishing save of 6 – 8 accumulative man-hours between seven staff members per day! Furthermore, all information is stored securely as part of the patient’s medical history in the software for easy access in future.
2. Compiled and summarised clinical notes
Our second practice is a spinal and neuro rehabilitation clinic. During ward rounds, the practitioners took daily notes of their patients’ progress on paper forms. Then, at the end of the week, they had to transcribe these notes in a weekly compilation and create a summary of the seven days. You can imagine how time intensive such a compilation and summary is, not to mention the risk of losing papers or even misfiling them.
A new time-effective workflow meant building a custom form with an additional summary section. This form enabled the practitioners to see previous entries, collaborate with colleagues, make notes on their tablets daily during ward rounds using voice-to-text functionality and automatically consolidate and summarise their weekly notes into reports.
TIMESAVERS IN CLINICAL FORMS
Several practical and easy to use features make completing custom clinical forms a breeze. One handy feature is voice-to-text notetaking. For example, practitioners on hospital rounds can use their cellphones or tablets to access their patient files and create clinical notes utilising the cellphone’s microphone.
Practitioners can upload images to their web-based clinical applications from cellphones or tablets without those images being stored on their personal devices. This feature complies with the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) requirements and leaves personal devices clear of work-related information.
Checkboxes, dropdowns and radio buttons are a great way to quickly mark one or more options on configured questions or answers. In addition, scoring can be enabled and allows the practitioner to draw reports and get a birds-eye view of the patient’s status. A practitioner will save lots of frustration by adding a saved signature to documents before sending them off to colleagues or institutions.
Bluetooth blood pressure and other devices used in conjunction with clinical software enable practitioners to capture vitals such as blood pressure results effortlessly and accurately.
Clinical questionnaires can be sent to patients for completion before their appointments. This opportunity will provide practitioners with a heads-up on the condition of their patients and make the patients’ experience much better by allowing them to complete these forms in the comfort and safety of their homes. In addition, clinical indicators can alert practitioners to the severity of the condition of patients and help them prepare for the urgency of care that may be necessary.
Repetitive procedures and standard forms are the perfect indicators to prompt a practice to re-evaluate its workflow to see if it can save on effort and time. Thus, even though the implementation of custom electronic clinical forms will take some doing initially, it is well worth the effort to save a lot of time in the long run. Healthcare practitioners are primarily concerned with patient care, so less administration will be very satisfying for them.