Comprehensive Guide to Modern Patient Intake Solutions

This guide is intended to provide additional context for navigating the overwhelming options for updating your practice’s patient intake process.

We aim to empower health systems and clinics to embrace
innovative strategies, improve operational efficiency, and elevate the provider and patient experience through patient intake and check-in. 

What is patient intake, and why is it so important for care?

Patients are used to hearing they need to arrive 15 minutes early so they can grab their clipboard and answer a slew of medical questions ahead of an appointment. “But I already told you this last time. Why do we have to go through this again?” a patient might protest, especially if they’ve already established care.

Physicians know how valuable patient intake is because a patient’s health status, symptoms, and current medications can change between appointments. Having as much information as possible before the appointment begins can make all the difference in treatment and next steps.

The patient intake process

Patient intake is the process of gathering, recording, and updating all the necessary information about a patient before they receive medical services.

Information physicians need to know
Components of patient intake

Patient intake is a critical step in healthcare delivery as it helps medical professionals prepare for and provide personalized care and ensures that services are billed correctly. It’s also the part that patients want to hurry up and skip over so they can get to their real reason for their doctors appointment.

The problem with ineffective patient intake

First, let’s take a step back from the reception desk and look at the challenges facing medical professionals today.

  • A recent study suggests that overworked, understaffed, and under-resourced physicians hurt patient care. (Source: Becker’s)
  • Physicians are trained as residents that long hours are normal, setting them up for a career of overwork and increasing the likelihood of medical errors. (Source: BMJ Journals)
  • Health systems continue to face financial difficulties due to ongoing staffing problems, reduced patient volumes, and rising inflation. (Source: Advisory Board)
  • Financial challenges may lead more physician practices to join health systems, private-equity groups, larger practices, or insurance companies. (Source: Advisory Board)
  • Workforce challenges are CEOs’ top concern, which includes personnel shortages and staff burnout, among other issues. Financial challenges came in at number two. (Source: ACHE)

What does this have to do with patient intake? Poor patient intake processes worsen all of the challenges facing modern healthcare organizations.

  • Tedious patient intake gives patients a poor experience, adding a barrier to seeking care.
  • A poor process can lead to reduced quality of care when physicians need more information and can even threaten patient safety.
  • Administrative staff bear many of the burdens of the process, spending much of their time managing countless forms.
  • Physicians spend after-work hours manually re-entering information into the EHR, leading to longer days and increased burnout.

The evolution of patient intake

The patient intake process is typically a time-consuming and frustrating experience for both physicians and patients alike.

Filling out paper forms, waiting past their appointment times, and repeating the same information to multiple staff members is not only tedious but also prone to errors. Patients often feel frustrated by the inefficiency and lack of personalized care, while physicians struggle to keep up with the paperwork and ensure EHR accuracy.

Digital patient intake solutions help solve all of these challenges. Now, patients can complete intake forms online from the comfort of their own homes, saving time and reducing stress. Doctors have access to the information they need ahead of time so they can focus on the patient, not the computer.

Digital intake systems streamline the process, allowing patients to input their information once and securely share it with multiple physicians. This not only improves continuity of care but also enhances the overall patient experience.

Let’s dive deeper into the benefits of digital patient intake.

How Efficient Patient Intake Can Transform Your Organization

In the fast-paced world of healthcare, effective patient intake is not just a matter of convenience—it impacts the health of the patients, physicians, staff, and the overall organization.

Physicians are all too familiar with the challenges of burnout, the need for improved patient satisfaction, and the critical importance of accurate medical information. However, it can feel overwhelming to make these kinds of systematic changes when everyone is already working at maximum capacity.

Here’s how digital patient intake can transform an organization.

Organizations and patients would agree that digital is better. Why?

Your staff is less burdened by paperwork.

Digital patient intake automates repetitive tasks and minimizes manual paperwork. Less paperwork means organizations can mitigate burnout so physicians are better able to focus on delivering compassionate care.

Your patients start their visit with a more positive experience.

A seamless check-in process sets the stage for positive patient interactions. Patients appreciate reduced wait times, but more importantly, they want to feel cared for by their physician.

By optimizing check-in procedures, healthcare organizations can cultivate a welcoming atmosphere and elevate the overall patient experience.

You and your team can trust what’s in the EHR.

Inaccurate patient data can lead to serious consequences, including medical errors and compromised patient safety. Repeated, manual data entry is prone to human error, posing risks to inaccurate patient information.

By implementing electronic patient intake solutions with standardized forms, real-time validation, and automated data transfer capabilities, healthcare organizations can ensure accuracy from the point of intake throughout the entire healthcare journey.

You can finally reduce wait times (and frustration).

Long wait times and administrative delays can erode patient trust and cause patient satisfaction to plummet. Leveraging digital solutions, appointment reminders, and efficient queuing systems allows healthcare organizations to minimize wait times and alleviate patient frustration.

Improving the intake process creates a ripple effect of positive change throughout the entire healthcare delivery ecosystem.

How much can pre-visit planning save your practice?
Find out with our ROI calculator.

Patient Intake Solutions: What Are My Options?

In this section, we’ll focus further on digital patient registration and mobile check-in solutions. As health systems and larger medical practices seek innovative approaches to enhance these critical processes, understanding the nuances of modern solutions becomes imperative.

Digital patient registration

From greater accuracy to simplified workflows, digital registration offers a range of core benefits.

Patient data entry made easy

Automated data capture

Digital forms reduce manual data entry, saving time and effort during patient registration. Staff can focus on more important tasks and ensure accurate data capture.

Pre-population of forms

Patient information can be automatically pre-populated from existing records, reducing the burden on patients and minimizing errors.

Standardized forms

Consistent and user-friendly forms with clear instructions minimize the risk of incomplete or inaccurate data entry.

Fewer errors, better care

Data validation and autocorrection

Real-time validation features identify and automatically correct errors in entered data, preventing inconsistencies and ensuring accuracy.

Digital signature capture

Eliminate the need for paper signatures, reducing the risk of illegibility and discrepancies.

Audit trails

Track changes and user activity, providing comprehensive oversight and accountability.

Protecting patients and practices

Encrypted data storage

Protects patient information from unauthorized access and breaches.

User authentication

Secure access controls ensure that only authorized personnel can access patient data.

Data backup and disaster recovery

Robust backup systems ensure critical patient information is protected against accidental loss or system failures.

Mobile solutions

What about the tablets in the waiting room?

Mobile solutions represent a paradigm shift in patient engagement. While tablets offered a step forward in patient intake compared to paper forms, mobile phones have taken the process even further. Their increased accessibility has made it even easier for patients to complete intake forms at their convenience, either before their appointment or even while waiting in the office.

Mobile patient intake offers leads to:

  • Faster intake times
  • Reduced wait times for patients
  • Increased efficiency for physicians

Tablets are useful tools in the office for check-in, last-minute paperwork, consents, and patients who didn’t complete their forms prior to arriving. However, on average, 80% of patients are now completing intake on their personal devices (per HealthNote data).

Additionally, mobile forms often offer features like interactive elements, signature capture, and photo upload capabilities, making it easier for patients to share necessary information.

Clinically intelligent patient intake

Clinically intelligent intake promises a better future for physicians and staff on the verge of burnout.

Clinically intelligent patient intake provides…

Relevant patient forms and questions
Intelligent forms adapt to the patient’s specific needs, asking only relevant questions based on their medical history, reason for visit, and even past responses.

Physician pre-reads
These computer-generated summaries distill patient medical information and responses, allowing doctors to walk into consultations ready with insights to ask tailored questions and provide more accurate diagnoses.

… so that physicians and patients can enjoy:

More engaging visits
With physician pre-reads, doctors jump straight to targeted questions. This translates to shorter visits with greater impact, allowing for focused discussions.

Less time documenting
Studies show that pre-reads can reduce post-visit documentation in the EHR by 27%. Imagine the time doctors could reclaim to connect with patients on a deeper level and provide even better care.

Using built-in EHR and practice management solutions versus third-party patient intake software

While embedded solutions integrated with your EHR or practice management software (PMS) offer ease of use and data synchronization, third-party options can provide greater flexibility and customization.

Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of each approach is crucial.

“Built-in” patient intake solutions

Pros

No integration needed
Information flows seamlessly between the intake form and EHR/PMS, reducing data entry and errors.

Single sign-on
Patients can access the intake form using their existing EHR/PMS login credentials, eliminating the need for separate passwords.

Centralized data management
All patient information is stored in a single location, ensuring easy access and reporting.

Cons

Lower completion rates
EHR/PMS solutions can introduce additional barriers to patients completing forms, such as creating new accounts or managing multiple logins.

Limited customization
Embedded solutions may offer limited customization options for forms and workflows.

Vendor lock-in
Switching to a different EHR/PMS may require changing your patient intake solution as well.

Maintenance
Embedded solutions may be more expensive than third-party options if your team is responsible for maintenance.

Frequently less integrated than they appear
Many “built-in” solutions were acquired rather than built in-house, so they operate similarly to a third-party vendor but come on one invoice.

Third-party patient intake solutions

Pros

Ease of use and higher completion rates
Untethered to portals, logins, and signups, third-party solutions often see substantially higher patient completion rates.

Greater flexibility
With a wider range of features and customization options, you can tailor the intake process to your specific needs. This is important if you have multiple specialties or specific workflows.

Innovation
Third-party solutions generally offer the newest functionality first.

Scalability
You can easily add features or users as your practice grows.

Integration options
Many third-party solutions can integrate with various EHR/PMS systems, providing flexibility and choice.

Mobile-friendly
Many third-party solutions offer mobile-friendly forms, allowing patients to complete them on their smartphones or tablets.

Branded patient experience
Maintain brand consistency across technology platforms.

Cons

Varied data synchronization
Setting up data synchronization between the third-party solution and your EHR/PMS may require additional effort.

Security concerns
Choosing a reputable vendor with strong security measures is crucial.

Integration options
The third-party solution may not integrate with your EHR/PMS.

Integration cost
Some third-party solutions may require additional fees for integration with your EHR/PMS.

Choosing the Right Patient Intake Solution for Your Practice

The best patient intake solution for your practice will depend on your specific needs and budget. Consider the following factors when making your decision:

Size and complexity of your practice 
Smaller practices may find built-in solutions easier to manage, while larger practices may benefit from the flexibility of third-party options.

Customization needs
A third-party solution may be the better choice if you require a highly customized intake process.

Integration capabilities
Ensure the solution you choose can integrate seamlessly with your existing EHR/PMS.

Budget
Consider the upfront cost of the solution as well as any ongoing maintenance fees.

Implementation and ongoing support
Consider the level of IT support your organization needs to ensure the solution has the best chance of success within your organization.

By carefully evaluating your needs and comparing the options available, you can choose the patient intake solution that best supports your practice’s efficiency, patient satisfaction, and growth.

Features to Look for in a Patient Intake Software Solution

Patient intake and engagement software supports a variety of tasks across the patient visit lifecycle. Look for features that automate information capture and support your existing workflows.

Before Visit

During Visit

After Visit

Between Visit

Implementing Digital Patient Intake: A Step-by-Step Guide

Transitioning to a new digital patient intake system can seem like a daunting task, but with careful planning and execution, physicians can streamline their processes and improve patient experiences.

Step 1

Evaluate your current patient intake process

  • Start by conducting a comprehensive assessment of your current patient intake process. Identify pain points, inefficiencies, and areas for improvement.
  • Gather feedback from staff members and patients to gain insights into their experiences.
  • Include some physicians in the process as newer solutions now offer a lot of value to providers.
  • Analyze data related to patient wait times, administrative errors, and overall patient satisfaction to pinpoint areas that need attention.
Step 2

Define your ideal intake process

  • Look at the feedback from step one. What are the most important pain points to alleviate? Which metrics should improve as a result of a new process?
  • Clearly define your perfect process. Knowing what you want your ideal patient intake process to look like will guide you as you evaluate vendors.
Step 3

Research and select a digital patient intake solution

  • Research different digital patient intake solutions available in the market. Consider factors such as ease of use, customization options, integration capabilities with existing systems, and affordability.
  • Request demos and trials of potential solutions to assess their functionality and suitability for your practice.
  • Check with references, including all stakeholders, as early as possible to hear their perspectives. (A bigger company is not always better!)
Step 4

Customize and configure the solution

  • Work closely with the vendor to customize and configure the selected digital patient intake solution according to your practice’s specific needs and workflows.
  • Ensure the solution integrates seamlessly with your existing EHR system and other relevant software.
Step 5

Train staff and provide support

  • Provide comprehensive training to staff members on how to use the new digital patient intake system effectively.
  • Offer ongoing support and resources to address any questions or concerns that arise during the transition period.
Step 6

Communicate with patients

  • Communicate with patients about the upcoming changes to the patient intake process and educate them on how to use the new digital system.
  • Provide clear instructions and support materials, such as how-to videos or FAQs, to help patients navigate the new process.
Step 7

Monitor and evaluate performance

  • Continuously monitor the performance of the digital patient intake system and gather feedback from staff and patients.
  • Analyze key performance indicators, such as wait times, data accuracy, and patient satisfaction, to assess the impact of the new system.
  • Make adjustments and improvements as needed to optimize the system and ensure ongoing success.

Following these steps will help you successfully implement a digital patient intake system and improve your overall efficiency and patient experience.

Better Quality of Life for Physicians, Better Quality of Care for Patients

Patient intake is a crucial step in the treatment process, but outdated patient intake processes can be cumbersome and frustrating for patients and physicians.

At Health Note, our mission is to empower patients to partake in their own health records and in turn enable our doctors to have up-to-date, clinical-grade, patient-generated health records at the right place and time.

Saving providers >5 minutes per patient visit

50% reduction in paperwork and documentation

Better patient experience

Tired of patient frustration and physician burnout?

Schedule a 15-minute consultation