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Thinking aloud…

I’m redesigning the forms people fill out when they come into the clinic.  There’s two reasons for this:  first, the existing forms are confusing and somewhat redundant.  Second, I want paper forms that easily compare to the electronic forms so that we can easily move back and forth from people filling out computer forms directly, or filling out paper forms that a staff member transcribes to the computer.

So I was looking at the various questions we ask: Marital Status, Who lives with you, Profession, Education.

Found myself thinking “what’s the purpose behind these questions?” I’m not planning to judge anyone, after all.  So the real questions are actually things like “are you having sex with anyone, because if so I should consider pregnancy and STDs as possible diagnoses when you’re sick”, and “when you’re really sick, is anyone there at home to call 911 for you?” and “Is it possible to do your job with the symptoms you have”, and “are you likely to understand what I’m talking about when I discuss your diagnosis with you”….

And those questions sort of miss the point for a lot of people.  A high-school educated lab tech understands more biology than many PhDs in areas like art or literature. Married people sometimes live alone.  Homosexual patients may live with a life-long partner, but only “single” technically applies. Heck, the most accurate box for me is technically “divorced” even though I’ve lived with K now for longer than I was ever married.

So redesigning, to avoid being all judgemental and not asking what we really want to know, how about things like:
Describe your living situation: (checkboxes for “I live alone”, “I live with one or more roommates”, “I live with a spouse or partner”, “I live with my children”, “I live in a nursing home or assisted living facility”…  maybe “I live in a dorm”

So the question is – what new set of things am I missing with my new questions?


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