As a person living with chronic illness, I have spent a lot of time filling out medical forms with low vision and trying out various forms of assistive technology so that I can fill out forms quickly and accurately. Since it often takes me longer to write forms legibly due to dysgraphia, I have come up with a few different tricks to be able to document lists of medications, allergies, contact information, and signing information in the correct place. Here are my tips for filling out medical forms with low vision, from the perspective of a person with chronic illness, inspired by my experience filling out 25 pages of medical forms for an appointment.
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Getting digital copies of forms in advance and using digital annotation
My preferred way of filling out medical forms with low vision is to download a copy of the forms in advance or to have them emailed to me so that I can use a tool like Markup or Notability to enlarge and write on the forms directly on my iPad. I like that I can add text boxes to type information or use my Apple Pencil to write out everything- and I can easily hit the undo/erase button if I discover something is difficult to read. Typically I will have a copy of the form printed before my appointment or I will call to see if I can send a copy of the form digitally through the patient portal.
Scanning forms and printing them off
For physical copies of forms, I will sometimes use an app like Microsoft Office Lens to scan in a copy of the form as a PDF document so I can export it to another app and add information that way. In these cases, I will find a way to print off the form before the appointment or again try to submit it through the patient portal so that my doctor can see it.
Using a visual assistance app to read information
Visual assistance apps use the device camera to recognize text on a page and have it read out loud. I prefer to use AI-powered apps such as Seeing AI or Google Lookout over human-powered apps such as Be My Eyes since I am working with sensitive medical information, though I have had great luck with Aira in the past as they have professional guides who must adhere to strict confidentiality requirements.
Using a personal magnifying device
For people who prefer to use magnification to read forms, I recommend bringing a small magnifying glass or a portable video magnifier such as the Eschenbach SmartLux to read forms, as they are very portable and easy to use. Some medical offices also can provide large print forms, though I have found that many offices do not have these available.
Copying information from a medical alert app
While this isn’t explicitly helpful for filling out medical forms with low vision, having medical information documented on a smartphone medical alert app is awesome for ensuring that the correct spellings and dosages are copied down on medical forms. I find this especially helpful when writing down allergies, as I have several allergies to food and medication and it can be difficult to remember how each medication is spelled, or what the generic name for it is. For digital forms, I can also copy and paste text from the app onto the form.
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Having someone highlight where to sign
When trying to figure out where to sign for the consent forms or financial agreement, I recommend asking the front desk staff to highlight the lines that need to be signed, initialed, dated, etc. If I am filling out paperwork at the front desk, I will instead ask for people to point where to sign, or to position my pen over the dotted line.
Additional tips for filling out medical forms with low vision
- When shading in areas where pain is located, write a description next to the image for where the pain is located in case the shading is not clear, i.e “the pain is in my left knee”
- Check to see if eCheck-In is an option for your appointment in the patient portal
- Some medical offices will call the patient in advance to fill out medical paperwork over the phone