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Form Frustration: Paper R.I.P.

05/29/2020

When the nurse handed me paper "instructions" after administering my nasal swab COVID test recently, it surprised me so much that I did not think to refuse it. Although I suspect she took adequate precautions to assure the document did not carry the virus, and given that all my medical providers, including her clinic, use electronic medical records with robust patient communication capabilities, it seems unnecessarily risky.
Even before the pandemic, my medical insurance company annoyed me with a steady stream of snail-mail, gratuitous documents about denials, services, payments and medications. The company, one of the "Blues," also has a robust patient-accessible Web resource it could have used instead.
Imagine the savings of medical dollars we could achieve by relying upon digital media instead of paper documents, which use precious resources and storage space. In addiction, we should shred them when no longer needed, rather than using the recycle bin.
Use of paper for collecting patient information poses another risk: If you write as illegibly as I do, providers could easily end up taking erroneous information from forms completed during visits. Collecting the information online also allows patients to obtain unrecalled details from others or to check the names and amounts of medications in the medicine cabinet.
Urge your medical providers and payers to make all paper documents optional.
Berry Edwards, MD