Bringing a new patient into your practice requires some extra forethought to make a positive first impression and deliver an effective, helpful experience.
Part of this process is the pre-appointment stage, which primarily involves collecting the information of the incoming patient in a pre-appointment questionnaire.
A pre-appointment questionnaire may seem like a basic or even negligible step…but it has the potential to significantly elevate the quality of patient care by helping you to make more informed decisions.
It also has the ability to help turn one-time patients into long-term healthcare partners by communicating to them that you are invested in their health journey from beginning to end.
In this article, we’ll take a look at how to create a pre-appointment questionnaire that helps you gather valuable insights on incoming patients and deliver exceptional care.
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Pre-Appointment Questionnaire: A Breakdown
At the most basic level, a healthcare provider will collect only the extremely necessary information of incoming patients, such as contact information and insurance information.
The next level of pre-appointment information may include basic medical history and current medications.
But an effective pre-appointment questionnaire will also ask deeper, more detailed information about a patient’s lifestyle choices, healthcare goals, and more.
First, you’ll want to ask for the patient’s basic information.
The “basics” of a pre-appointment questionnaire may include a combination of, or all of the following:
– Full name
– Date of birth
– Primary care provider (if applicable)
– Contact information, including physical address, email address, and phone number
– Emergency contact information
– Date of appointment
– Insurance provider (if applicable)
Organize this information at the top of your form cleanly and clearly.
Next Level: Goals and Objectives
Rather than skip immediately to asking patients for their medical history, ask them what they hope to accomplish. This gives them an opportunity to articulate their healthcare goals before diving right into listing illnesses or conditions. It also gives you, as a provider, a chance to avoid making an immediate assumption about what a patient may be looking for in her or his appointment.
You can simply ask, “What do you hope to accomplish?” or “What are your goals for your appointment?” Or, you may choose to focus on the larger picture and ask, “How would you like to improve your overall health?”
You may even want to provide some example phrases of how a patient might answer, including improve my blood pressure, develop a preventative plan for heart disease, or even learn new strategies for dealing with anxiety.
Asking these questions gives patients a chance to verbalize goals they may not think of during their appointment. And it gives you a chance to anticipate how to best craft a healthcare plan to help meet their specific needs.
Assessing Medical History
Next, you’ll want to give patients an opportunity to describe their current condition and medical history.
Depending on the type of medical practice that you run, you’ll want to ask targeted questions about conditions such as blood pressure, heart condition, diabetes, anxiety, depression, and more.
A list of conditions with a NO/YES option next to each one is fast and simple for patients to fill out.
Then, ask patients to list any medications they are using regularly, and if applicable, supplements.
You may also want to ask about any recent trips to the emergency room, and ask patients to describe the nature of the visit.
In most cases, you’ll want to be aware of specific lifestyle choices that a patient is making, especially in regards to consumption of alcohol, nicotine, and even caffeine.
You may also want to ask questions about exercise, nutrition, sleep, and even social habits.
Lifestyle questions may begin with “How often….” (For example, “How often do you drink alcohol?” or “How often do you sleep less than 6 hours a night?”) and provide patients with several options to check, including “Every day” or “Once a week.”
It’s up to you and the specialty of your practice to determine how to best word this portion of the questionnaire. The goal is simply to be strategic and efficient in gathering information that is pertinent to the quality of your medical care.
This section of your pre-appointment questionnaire will vary depending on your practice.
In any case, try to be thorough in describing symptoms that patients may be experiencing. For example, if your practice focuses on nutritional care and gastrointestinal health, your list of symptoms may include:
– Blood in stool
– Stomach pain
– And more…
Ticking off these symptoms will allow your patients an opportunity to provide a detailed overview of symptoms they are experiencing. This also ensures that they don’t “miss” any symptoms when describing their condition to you during the appointment.
Finally, give your patients an opportunity to tell you anything else they may want to share in an open-ended question.
Your open-ended question may simply be, “Do you have anything else you would like to share?” or “Do you have any other concerns?”
Giving your patients this opportunity allows them to address any unusual concerns in advance, so that you won’t encounter any “surprises” during the appointment.
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Benefits of a Pre-Appointment Questionnaire
A pre-appointment questionnaire will help you provide a higher quality of customized care by providing time to assess information before the appointment.
Not only that, but a pre-appointment questionnaire has several administrative benefits, including:
- Improved communication before the appointment, allowing patients to provide their basic information to the front of office in advance
- Reduced need to discuss certain “basics” or symptoms during an appointment, giving the provider more time to connect with the patient and reducing the need to “rush through”
- Gives the front of office a useful database of information about the patient
As with any form, the most efficient way to deliver and collect a form such as a pre-appointment questionnaire is by using an electronic form system such as IntakeQ.
Relying on a paper form for your pre-appointment questionnaire can create a number of problems. First, patients usually fill out the form immediately before the appointment, which may not give them adequate time to look it over or fill it out. Second, paper forms are often lost, and can create an administrative hassle if they need to be changed or transferred.
An electronic pre-appointment questionnaire can be sent, filled out, and stored digitally in a way that’s efficient for both patient and office staff…and HIPAA compliant.
You can simply send the pre-appointment questionnaire to the patient 5–7 days before the appointment, and request that the form is returned within 24-48 hours.
By the time your patients arrive at the appointment, they feel heard and understood…and you have an idea of what to anticipate.
It’s a win-win for both patient and provider, increasing efficiency and helping to build valuable, long-lasting relationships.