If you have clients fill out registration forms and other documents at your office, consider giving them the option of completing this task at home. New clients, especially, can take all the time they need to answer the questions, without feeling rushed. Furthermore, the process may help them consolidate their thoughts about what they need help with.
Some practice management programs include client portals where people can enter their information online. But if you don't have access to this feature (or don't want to use it), you can create your own forms, checklists and questionnaires.
The simplest way is to compose your document in Microsoft Word, and post it on your website for downloading. Clients can either print it out and write in their answers with a pen, or fill in the document on their screen, before printing it out. The latter sidesteps illegible handwriting. However, there is still the risk that when entering their information, people may inadvertently delete sections or mess up line formatting.
Fortunately, with just a bit of tweaking, you can create a fillable form in Word, in which the user can type information into certain fields, but the formatting and surrounding text cannot be changed.
First you need to enable the "Developer" tab. Here's a 6.6-minute tutorial showing how to enable the Developer tab and create a form with different types of fields, such as text input, dropdown boxes and radio buttons:
Other options for creating fillable forms
LibreOffice, a free program, is a great alternative to Microsoft. Similar to Word, you can create forms with fillable fields - and even save them as PDFs.
With PDFescape you can create a fillable PDF form online for free and download it. Many services, both free and paid, will store your forms at their sites and provide an interface for clients to fill out the forms online. If you go this route (which means that confidential client data will be stored at these sites) make sure the company will sign a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) in order to comply with HIPAA. Google will do that for a small monthly fee. PDFfiller includes an optional BAA at no additional charge, but you do pay a monthly fee for the service. Jotform does not offer a BAA, but they claim that you can use their service "in a HIPAA Compliant way."
Have a fillable form open up on your own website. If you have a WordPress site, there are several form builder plugins to choose from, including the popular Gravity Forms and WordPress Form Filler. One advantage of online fillable forms is that most modern ones are responsive - they adjust to fit on any size screen. However, you also need to ensure that the interface, submission and storage are all compliant with HIPAA privacy requirements. If your website is not a WordPress site, check with your web designer about adding a secure form filler module.
Need some simple tech help?
If you don't have the time or interest to create fillable forms, you can have it done for you for as little as $5 on Fiverr.com. Enter your search terms for what you want done, and get a list of qualified freelance technicians, along with ratings from other people who have used their services.
Some freelancers have a wider range of skills than others. Some may have skills to both create your forms and install them on your website. Others may be good at one task but not another. Therefore, when searching the Fiverr site or contacting freelancers, be very specific about your needs. Also, if your job involves several steps or do-overs, expect to pay extra.