As the complexity of medical science expands, it’s become more imperative for practitioners to communicate instructions clearly, particularly when those instructions are sent to a specialist for follow-up treatment. In the past, these types of referrals were made by phone; one doctor called another and there was a meeting of the minds. Today’s health care professional is more likely to use a medical consult form to do the job so strive for practicality, simplicity and functionality when you design yours.
Understand the purpose of a medical consult form. This document details a patient’s physical state from the perspective of the referring doctor, requests additional evaluation of the symptoms from a specialist and then charges that doctor to render findings based on the original practitioner's initial meeting--all within a page or two.
Examine formats other designers have used to create medical consult forms (see the the Red Cross in the Resources) so you have a point of reference from which to begin. Evaluate type size and style, fields and layout. Borrow elements from sample medical consult forms that can be adapted for use on yours.
Boot your computer and open a standard 8.5 x 11 inch portrait document in your page layout or word processing program. Set margins at .167 (should be your default) to take advantage of most of the print area, particularly if you’re planning to store the template and print out the medical consult forms as you need them.
Choose a font for your medical consult form that’s easy to navigate. Avoid script and decorative typefaces in favor of easy-to-read serif fonts--Times New Roman, Palatino or Georgia will all work nicely. Opt for Arial or Helvetica Narrow (if you need to maximize space) if you've been instructed to design the form using a sans serif font.
Create a text box to store information about your practice. Pre-print the name of the clinic, office or hospital, street address, phone number, fax and web address. Add a blank line reserved for the name of the physician or practitioner making the referral if several doctors are using the consult form. Provide space for internal identification numbers your practice uses to track billing and hours.
Drag a second text box beneath the first. Draw a series of lines dedicated to patient data. Type these subheads: patient’s name, gender, birth date, address, phone number and primary care physician (if different from the form’s originator) and add fields for the patient’s insurance provider and vital signs--pulse, blood pressure, temperature and weight in addition to the medications he takes. Reserve space at the bottom of the consult form so the originating doctor can post his diagnosis, thoughts and recommendations.
Evaluate the look of your medical consult form once all of the data has been input. Adjust the type size, leading and kerning. Leave as much white space in the document as possible to enhance readability so everyone will find the form easy to use and hand off each time a referral is made.
Based in Chicago, Gail Cohen has been a professional writer for more than 30 years. She has authored and co-authored 14 books and penned hundreds of articles in consumer and trade publications, including the Illinois-based "Daily Herald" newspaper. Her newest book, "The Christmas Quilt," was published in December 2011.