Therapy Form Redesign: Before and After

November 9, 2011

A business owner of a therapy company wanted me to redesign some of the forms their therapists use during client sessions. The owner wanted the forms to be easier for the therapists to fill out, and easier for the secretaries gather information from during processing.

I used Microsoft PowerPoint to design his form because that would enable company employees to tweak it later as needed. Adobe InDesign would have given me more control, but few people own it; Microsoft Word is just as widespread as PowerPoint, but it can have some annoying tendencies to move things around the page when someone edits it later.

Looking at the original (see below), it was difficult to tell at first glace how each day’s “SOAP note” section was organized (SOAP is a common acronym in therapy notes, standing for Subjective data, Objective data, Assessment of current abilities, and Plan for the next session). Each letter in SOAP denotes a main section of the note, but they were printed in-line at the same size as the rest of the text, so it was barely noticeable that the notes were even subdivided at all, much less where one section ended and another began.

I solved this by creating “watermark” letters for SOAP—putting them in light grey in the background. That way I could make them as large as I wanted, I didn’t have to clutter the form with more lines or boxes, and I didn’t have to use more precious space by giving each letter its own line, like a heading. An added bonus was that it resulted in more space for lines to write on, which also makes it easier for the therapist to create impromptu charts.

The other big problem, which I noticed immediately, was that the original laid out the checklists horizontally. This is problematic for a few reasons. First, it’s hard to see at a glance how many items are on a given list. It can also be confusing, when checking an option in the middle of the list, to know whether you should check the box to the right or the left of the item you want to select. Guessing wrong can result in inaccurate information. Finally, it’s difficult with horizontal/in-line lists to tell how many lists there are.

I solved all this by aligning the checkboxes vertically. It’s now easy to see at a glance that there are four distinct checklists, how many items are on each list, and which box corresponds to which item.

I made a few other changes as well. I lightened the signature boxes and the name of the company, since they are non-essential when scanning the form for therapy-related data during a session. I also swapped positions of the two signatures, moving the client signature over to the left. That way, the two most vital parts of any note—the date and the signature (crucial in, e.g., billing or an audit)—can be found by scanning down the left side of the page, with plenty of white space in between and not other text to get in the way. They still wanted to fit four days’ worth of therapy notes on one page, so I narrowed the margins of the page to give it more white space than the original. By narrowing the needlessly-wide columns in the chart at the top, I was able to move the title off to the right, reclaiming the valuable white space it was occupying up at the top all by itself.

Here is the company’s original form (click on the form to zoom in on different parts):

Here’s what it looked like after I redesigned it:

I absolutely love doing form redesign. For me, it’s like cleaning up a cluttered but often-used space. Once it’s done, it makes life easier. And the thing is, it doesn’t take a lot of bells and whistles. Just a few simple principles can go a long way toward a cleaner, more user-friendly form.

8 Responses

  1. Good morning,

    I have been searching for a speech therapy SOAP note template and came across this sample. Would you be willing to send me this form in an editable version? Thank you very much for your prompt reply.

    Lynn A Applebee M.S., CCC-SLP
    Lynn A Summers LLC
    D/B/A Making Milestones Pediatric Therapy of the Treasure Coast

  2. You bet, Lynn. I’ve attached the files and sent it to the email address you provided.

  3. Kayle Shulenberger

    February 8th, 2014

    I would LOVE a copy too! Thanks so much!

  4. Beautifully designed document. Do you mind sending me an editable copy as well? I am still doing progress notes by the old method: long, lengthy SOAP notes. Thank you so much.

    Tequesta, Thomas-Allen
    DBA Imari’s therapy services, P.A.

  5. I would love an editable copy as well would you be so kind and email this to me? I’ve been searching and searching..
    Thank you!

  6. Love this! Would you be willing to send me this form in an editable version? Thank you very much for your prompt reply.

  7. Your beautiful document is exactly what I have been searching for. Would it be possible for me to also receive an editable copy?

    Thanking you in advance-

  8. Kirsten Gaffey

    February 15th, 2015

    Good afternoon!

    I have also been searching for a wonderful SOAP note like this for the students I see in schools. Often I write notes electronically but I need something like this for other environments.
    Would you be willing to send me an editable copy?
    It looks so good, I’m sure you could post it on Teachers Pay Teachers and increase your following!

    Thanks in advance,
    Certified Practising Speech Pathologist (from Australia)

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