It always amazes me how antiquated the process of filling out forms remains, even with so much technology available to make this task easier and more accurate. I still receive paper forms to fill out in the mail! Or even worse, I receive forms as email attachments that I have to print out to fill in, scan, and then email back as another attachment. Or sometimes I’m able to fill out forms electronically, but the formatting is weird and the information won’t line up or fit properly.
Here’s why this is problematic from a time, resource, and data management perspective. Forms filled out by hand require the applicant to spend time entering all the information. Then the recipient has to spend time deciphering the handwriting to re-enter the information into some kind of electronic system. This requires effort from at least two people.
One of the biggest problems with this type of system is the high potential for data entry errors. An “I” can turn into a “1”, last names can be misspelled, numbers transposed, decimal points missed, etc. These may seem like small typographical mistakes, but they can have a big impact sometimes. Imagine somebody getting a dose of medication where the decimal point is off by one place. Or important communications not reaching somebody because an email address is misspelled, or an address entered incorrectly.
Alternatively, some forms can be filled out online, or electronically. Although these can be easier to fill out if they’ve been formatted properly, they are often not integrated with a system on the backend to manage all the information. Essentially, the data remains static on the form where it has to be attached to the applicant’s file. The information on them can be difficult to update or search, meaning they are not always reliable.
So what’s ideal? The best system is to have the form linked directly to the data management system managing the information on the backend. This way the information gets entered one time, directly into the system. It saves time because only one entry is required and more importantly, it reduces silly errors that can cause a lot of problems later.