Issue: BCMJ, vol. 58, No. 4, May 2016, Page 180 Editorials

I recently filled out a number of forms for one of my palliative patients. For those uninitiated in this process, there are quite a few boxes to complete, and in my case I forgot to enter the diagnosis in one of them. Therefore, it was returned, and rightly so. After resubmitting the corrected form I received another fax telling me that my form was out of date and that I needed to use the updated one. You would assume that this is a rare occurrence but you would be wrong.

So commences my form rant. The form police seem to take great satisfaction in monitoring and returning all that is wrong. Does it really matter if the form used is out of date? It usually looks almost exactly like its predecessor and contains all of the necessary information. How about thanking me for the referral and sending me the new form for my next use? I have even been sent a request to fill out new referral forms for my patients who are on a wait list because the form was updated since they were initially referred. Seems to me that that shouldn’t be my responsibility, but I don’t want to single out the JPOC Pain Clinic for their audacity as that would be unfair. The majority of these form tribulations involve publicly funded facilities such as hospitals. Interestingly, private clinics are more than happy to accommodate patients presenting with incorrect forms.

When the new fecal immunochemical test (FIT) program started, it would take a whole month for someone at central intake to glance at the referral form and then send it back to the health region for booking. Another similar frustration is to send a referral letter to a specialist and have it returned 3 months later declining the referral for various reasons. “Dr Smith no longer operates on patients born in June,” for example. Couldn’t they have looked at the birthdate when they received the letter? I am also sure many specialists get frustrated with referrals that don’t contain clinical details, results, etc. Specifying “I think he has a problem with his heart or lungs” probably doesn’t cut it.

I also enjoy how everything is urgent, particularly with insurance or disability forms. “Urgent” to me suggests that someone is going to die imminently unless I put down my doughnut and do something heroic, and that even then it would probably be better if I kept eating and sent one of my more talented colleagues.

Every day the forms pour in—disability tax credit applications, persons with a disability designation, CPP disability applications, short-term/long-term disability updates, medical EI, notes for physiotherapy/massage/work absence/orthotics/dentures/emotional support animals, and more. 

If you can’t beat them, join them. So to end this rant I am going to fill out an application form for medicinal marijuana because drinking at work is socially unacceptable.

David R. Richardson, MD. Forms. BCMJ, Vol. 58, No. 4, May, 2016, Page(s) 180 - Editorials.

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