Focus on forms

This week we’re looking at instances where you collect personal information (PI). For example, patient forms, employee forms, the CVs of candidates, and vendor forms.

According to the POPIA, you shouldn’t collect more information than you need, so this week you are going to make a list of the PI you collect and what you use it for.

When patients visit your consultation rooms for the first time, you ask them for PI like their names, contact details, medical aid information, medical history, and information about their next of kin.

You need this PI to treat patients and communicate with them, but have you ever thought about what the patients’ experience when completing these forms? Forms have the power to radically influence the way your patients perceive your practice, and that perception shapes the relationship they have with you. You know what they say about first impressions!

1. Gather all your forms
Gather all the forms that you use in your practice, including any paper forms or digital forms that you expect staff, patients, or service providers to complete, or that you complete on their behalf. This will give you an overview of the information you are collecting.

2. Simplify
Choose the form your patients complete most often and read through it as if you were the patient. Complete all the fields. Think about each field you complete, and then consider whether your practice really needs this information, and what you use it for.

For example, do you really need a patient to complete their date of birth when you already have their ID number? (The ID number already contains the date of birth.)

Open your workbook at the Patient PI tab and start recording the form fields. What patient PI do you collect? Where do you get it from? Why do you need it?

Use your GAPS tab to list wording or fields on the form that needs updating or improvement. If you identify any fields you think you can cut from the form, do it. Why? Nobody enjoys completing forms, and the POPIA says that you should not collect PI if you don’t need it.

3. Make it foolproof
Clear, usable forms reduce the risk of errors and increase the chance that a patient will complete the form in full without any hiccups. Here are some examples of what you could do to improve your form.

4. Fine print
According to the POPIA, you must be transparent with your patient about what PI you have and what you use it for. You need to include this privacy notice in your form. We’ve included a framework for this notice in your workbook (Privacy Notice tab) and we’ll help you to make sense of it over the next 9 weeks.

5. A note on marketing
If you want to send your patients direct marketing messages, you need their specific consent. This is how you ask for specific consent:

Yes, I would like to receive promotional information from Dr. Happyfingers Inc.
Include this wording on your form – remember to replace ‘Dr. Happyfingers Inc.” with your practice name! You may only send marketing material to the patients who ticked the box.


We focussed on patient forms, because you must start somewhere. But you need to repeat this exercise (with some minor adaptations) for the forms you use to collect the PI of your employees (both those whom you just interviewed and the ones you hired), as well as forms you use to collect the PI you have about your suppliers and service providers.

You can use the HR PI tab when looking at employee and candidate information. Whenever you identify wording or fields that need improvement or updating, use the GAPS tab to keep record.


 You’re welcome to send us your forms – that way we have them ready if you want to talk them over with us.

Remember that you have a free one-hour consultation included with this programme!
Use it, and contact us if you have any questions about this week’s topic.