The form fields that are selected for each question will determine the quality of a form and the quality of the data you collect in your EHR software. It’s important that you understand each of the different field types to make sure you’re selecting the one that works best for your purposes.
Consider major history or art museums – the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City for example. Each of these museums have thousands of pieces in their exhibits, but each piece only belongs to one museum. It’d be impossible for one piece to exist regularly in both museums. It’s the perfect one-to-many relationship example.
The grids field in an electronic health record form is another great example of a one-to-many relationship. Grids are an ideal choice when you are unsure of the amount of information you need to capture. They allow you to add as many fields as possible within a specific grouping.
For example, your clinicians may be collecting a list of symptoms from their clients. Their client may have two symptoms, or they may have eight. Using the grids field allows them to easily collect all of them. It’s a similar concept to the free text field because it adjusts to fit the data you need collected, but creates cleaner data than a free text fields.
Think Before You Report
Grids seem like they’re the answer to any form creators woes – they adapt to fit your needs and let your clinicians collect any amount of data they need. It sounds great but makes it incredibly difficult to report on the data you’ve collected with them because it’s not consistent. There’s no easy way to compare clients when they each have a different number of symptoms.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t utilize the grids field, it just means that you need to consider your future reporting needs when building your forms. Continuing with the symptoms example – your clinicians may need the flexibility to input multiple answers, so you’ll want to use the grids field. But if you also know that you’ll want to report on symptoms in the future, consider designating the first row of the grid as “Primary Symptom”. This way your clinicians can fully answer the question and you broaden your reporting capabilities to at least the primary symptom across all clients.
Taking the time to plan out and think through your form will ensure that you select fields that work the best for your agency.