Basic Patient Intake vs Smart Intake

Patient intake is often the first interaction between the patient and the provider. It is the process of collecting basic as well as key information from the new and returning patients before their consultation.

It generally includes the patient’s demographics, consent form, insurance details, history of present and previous illnesses etc. Efficient patient intake is critical for the operational, clinical and financial success of the healthcare system. This is made possible by the amalgamation of technology and medical science with the introduction of automated patient intake. Automated patient intake has tremendously reduced the workload and exceptionally improved the whole healthcare process.

Moreover, a thorough patient intake paves the way for a significantly reduced documentation time per consultation.

Before the introduction of the smart patient intake, there were days when medical staff or providers used paper forms for patient intake. The information from the paper was later typed by the staff in the EHR leading to a tremendous waste of time and effort. This was followed by a digital patient intake process which is just an extension of the conventional forms but filled in computer or laptop by the staff or provider. Even though the digitization reduced the paperwork however the process remained lengthy, tedious and time-consuming. Filled either by administrative or medical staff in the waiting area, this is still considered as a burden by many of the patients. Also, the basic patient intake provided limited benefits to the provider as only basic details were captured:

Basic Patient Intake vs Smart Intake

  • Demographics: An essential part of patient details, demographics are covered in almost every form. It takes the name, age, gender, marital status, residential address, contact number etc. of the patient.

  • Insurance details: Insurance carrier, insurance plan, policy number and contact number are required for insurance claims.

  • Chief complaints: Moving forward, the chief complaints of the patient are filled along with the duration of illness. Patient explains his illness and few questions may also be asked related to the illness.

The basic patient intake almost ends here, leaving the rest of the process for the providers. Moreover, the above information is then verified by the provider during the consultation, hence not reducing any burden for providers.

This cumbersome and incomplete process demands a smart patient intake that can simplify the process and provide a simple and intuitive experience to the patients as well as the providers. Smart intake process is done online through a secured link sent to the patient on confirmation of his appointment. The patient is required to complete the process prior to the consultation.

Apart from being automated, smart patient intake is very elaborate and covers a wider questionnaire that helps the provider to better understand the patient’s illness. Along with the basic details like demographics, insurance details and chief complaints, smart patient intake also takes care of the following:

  1. History of present illness: Experienced providers believe that a good and extended HPI can not only lead to correct diagnosis but can also be therapeutic for the patient.1 A study titled ‘Reassessing the HPI: The Chronology of Present Illness (CPI)’ states that HPI is important for the generation of the differential diagnosis, evaluation and analysis of the patient’s illness and to guide the provider for effective medical decision-making. A properly conducted HPI relieves the patient and satisfies the clinician personally and professionally.2
    The smart patient intake focuses on the history of present illness through smart intake elicit detailed responses in which one question follows the next related question. This way all possible reasons or events are explored to highlight the possible cause of a patient’s presenting complaints. This unique feature of automated patient intake makes them a better and smart way than basic patient intake.

  2. Medical history: A helping guide for providers ‘Understanding the Importance of Medical History’, outlines that the best way a provider can keep his patients healthy is by understanding and documenting their past medical history. As many illnesses are interlinked in the human body, it is important to document every past acute or chronic illness. Past medical history may help the provider in understanding the patient’s past conditions and their possible association with the present illness. Providers can evaluate if the chief complaints of the patient are part of an already diagnosed condition or a newly developing condition. This helps the provider in planning the most pertinent and effective treatment for the patient and maintain his best possible health. 3

  3. Medication History: Various studies have proved that a good medication history is very important for patient safety and risk assessment. It is also required to prevent any prescription errors, identify drug-related pathologies and evaluate the changes in clinical signs that may be the result of drug therapy. 4, 5, 6 Smart patient intake accurately documents the medication history to avoid any medication errors and potential harm to the patient.

Let’s walk through the sections of both the basic and smart patient intake:

Basic Patient Intake Smart/Automated Patient Intake
Insurance details Insurance details
Demographic information Demographic information
Chief complaints Chief complaints
  History of present illness
  Past medical history
  Medication details

Advantages of Smart patient intake with respect to basic patient intake:

  1. Upto 15 minutes saved per consultation as 80% as clinical notes are ready for the provider’s review

  2. 50% decreased documentation time

  3. Revenue growth owing to almost 25% more patient volume/provider

  4. Reduced insurance claim rejections with 80% billable clinical notes ready

  5. Comfortable for patients to fill in at their convenient time and place

  6. Quick to fill as smart intake elicits detailed responses takes less than 10 minutes to complete the process

  7. Accurate, detailed and well documented patient details Improved patient experience allowing for a better patient flow


  1. JABFP - PDF
  2. PMC - Articles: PMC3889925
  3. DDS Safety - FA Medical History
  4. NLM - Articles: 19594536
  5. NLM - Articles: 12856392
  6. NLM - Articles: 12856392