Designing Better Medical and Dental History Forms

By William J. Moorhead, D.M.D.

Can the design of your medical and dental history forms affect efficiency? Yes, definitely. In fact, a well designed form not only saves time, it can facilitate diagnosis and motivate your patients.

Today, most practice management systems have online forms, which enable patients to register and complete their medical and dental history in advance. This can streamline the appointment—but only if the forms are designed with the patient in mind. If you discover that patients are filling out the forms incorrectly or if they are omitting information, it’s likely time to rethink your forms.

When you develop the medical and dental history section of your forms, develop questions so that a “yes” answer requires the doctor’s attention. For example, change the question “are you satisfied with the color of your teeth?” to “would you like whiter teeth?” This approach can speed your review process, because you can quickly decipher where to focus your attention.

For the best chance to understand your patients’ needs and priorities, use several open-ended questions:

  • What are the biggest concerns you want us to address during your visit?
  • Overall, what is most important to you concerning your teeth?
  • If you could change anything about your mouth, teeth or smile, what would it be?

Another way to save doctor time is to include summary sections in the medical and dental history forms. By using a large text box after the long list of yes-or-no questions about medical problems, the dental assistant can type out each medical problem, ask and record information to follow up the condition and list any medications the patient takes for that condition. See example below.

  • Heart murmur with regurgitation – no premed required
  • Dyslipidemia – Simvastatin 10 mg qd hs
  • Hypertension – Lisinopril 10 mg qd hs. BP 118/74 RAS
  • Reflux – well controlled. Nexium 20 mg qd
  • Drug allergies – Erythromycin, Cephalexin
  • Tobacco hx – non-user

Do you have any tips for obtaining patients’ medical and dental histories? Let me know at the Summit. I will be sharing my ideas on the advantages of applying systems to everything you do in your practice, and I would love to hear your ideas on the topic.

If you haven’t already registered for the Summit, I am pleased to offer you some incentive to do it today. Here’s $200 off your registration!  Just enter code BLOG when you register.

I can’t wait to see you in November at the Summit in Orlando.

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