In this day and age of technological advancements, much of the communication across different sectors is done and completed through online and digital platforms. In the medical sector, the focus here is on the patients’ case report forms. Taking care of patients entails writing down a lot of notes. There’s the medication, diagnosis, treatment plan, and patient history. In the past, all of that information was gathered and taken note of manually.
While it may have worked, taking manual notes of a patient’s case history can be labor-intensive, time-consuming, and prone to errors. Health workers are always in a rush, hence the need to be more efficient with their time. This is where electronic case report forms come in as a more effective and efficient solution.
Successful data collection significantly depends on a successful and user-friendly electronic case report form (ECRF) design. To that end, here are six tips on how you can achieve a user-friendly ECRF design with an operational data model.
Eliminate Any Uncertainty In Your Questions
When drafting your ECRF, be as direct and concise with your questions as possible. Eliminate any uncertainty that the individual reading the form may have. For instance, create close-ended questions, such as ones that can be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ to make it direct. There’s no need to make your questions complicated. ‘Does the patient’s family have a history of cancer?’ Yes, No. This allows individuals to answer questions faster and more accurately.
Always Have Descriptive Headings
Each section of your ECRF should have descriptive headings. For example, ‘Patient’s Bio Data’, ‘Patient’s Medical History’, etc. This will make it easier for the one browsing through the electronic form to understand and have a clear idea as to what each section is all about.
Moreover, the descriptive headings will also come in handy for the healthcare workers receiving and reading the form. It breaks up long bouts of text and numerous questions into different parts. When going through a patient’s case record file, it’s easier to locate the information you’re looking for when each is grouped into different sections.
Only Ask The Necessary Questions
Avoid asking any more questions than what is needed. Unnecessarily long case report forms will only make it complicated and incomprehensible. This defeats the purpose of ECRF being a technological advancement for the benefit of the medical sector. Asking only the necessary questions can make your ECRF easier to answer by the patient or health worker filling it up.
The general rule to remember is that if a specific question is asked, then it’s absolutely needed. The advantage with electronic case report forms is you can also tweak the main form before submission by hiding certain rows which may not be necessary.
Keeping your ECRF limited only to the questions which are absolutely needed can prevent data entry errors. The less there is to record, the slimmer the likelihood of errors is. Moreover, the form completion can then become more efficient for the end-user.
Request Certain Data With Required Fields
If certain data is required, specify in your form that it is. By doing so, the individual filling up the form won’t be able to skip those required fields.
Here’s how such can be done: make use of mandatory settings. Depending on the ECRF you have, you can require people to answer questions or input data and information. This is very useful in reminding people that a specific field is required.
Moreover, this function can also be used to hinder any subsequent data input. This can help eliminate any accidental missing or deliberate data.
Explain Complex Items
If there’s any item in the ECRF filled with medical terms which are hard to comprehend and understand by non-medical workers, be sure to at least have a brief explanation as to what that field is all about. That explanation is very significant to avoid any confusion and mistakes. Your ECRF ceases to be user-friendly when the questions or items aren’t easily comprehensible.
Remember that not all patients know how to answer questions immediately. They may need further direction and guidance to ensure they’re all done accurately.
Test ECRFs In Different Tactics Before Using
Like any electronic form, software, or app, testing is necessary before launching it. The whole point of testing is to ensure it functions correctly. If anything needs to be tweaked or improved, there’s still room to make those changes before launching the ECRF.
Here are some questions you’ll have to answer:
- Is the form easy to navigate?
- Are there any error pop-up messages enabled, should a person using the form wrongly input certain data?
- Is there a clear workflow from one question to the next?
Creating an electronic case report form isn’t something you can merely do in a rush. When you’re working in healthcare and tasked with that responsibility, it’s on you to ensure that you start with having a user-friendly ECRF. No matter how promising the advantages of using one are, a case report form can’t work well to your advantage if it isn’t user-friendly. The insights above should lead you to that.