Intake paperwork reduction in the doctor’s office using electronic records.

Posted on March 12, 2012 I Written By

Dr. West is an endocrinologist in private practice in Washington, DC. He completed fellowship training in Endocrinology and Metabolism at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. West opened The Washington Endocrine Clinic, PLLC in 2009. He can be contacted at

You might think there would not be much paperwork, if any, involved in a modern doctor’s office using electronic health records. However, while we strive for a truly paperless office, the real situation often amounts to being about 95% paperless.

Part of the problem is that a most offices are still on paper and so the patient ends up carting in thick piles that need to be scanned and then, in many cases, shredded.  What a waste of — albeit someone else’s — paper and ink!  One of the joys of my life is getting all of the patient’s records faxed over, which of course arrives digitally in our fax email account, ready to download, rename, and upload to the patient’s file.  All without a drop of ink touching a single sheet of paper.

In the old days before electronic records, this process would have been impossible, and the end result would be walls full of thick patient charts.  I once knew an unfortunate secretary who had her arm broken when a heavy wall rack, full of charts, fell over on her.

In my office, we are also able to accept PDF registration forms that can be either faxed or emailed.   Tech-savvy patients, which are becoming the norm these days, are able to easily and quickly shoot us their registration form before the day of their appointment.  These are uploaded to their electronic charts as soon as they come through the electronic pipeline, which really saves time during check-in on their appointment date.

If the old medical records and registration forms have arrived ahead of time, then my staff’s job is very easy.  All they need to do is make a copy of the patient’s insurance card and photo ID and whisk the patient back into an exam room to begin their visit.  That whole process can take less than 5 minutes.  Patients are seen on time because there is little left to distract a staff member from during this honed, highly efficient process.