Electronic Signature for Healthcare
Electronic Signatures

Electronic Signature for Healthcare: Use Cases/HIPAA

Will Cannon

Last updated on October 21, 2022

Did you know that for each hour-long ER visit, hospital workers spend an additional hour filling out paperwork? Most healthcare facilities are gravely understaffed; that time should be spent on more important activities related to patient care. Healthcare facilities can easily automate tasks using an electronic signature for healthcare software.

Spending time with each patient dramatically declines when healthcare professionals drown in administrative paperwork and insurance claims. These programs can help these organizations eliminate fax machines, scanners, and hard-copy paper.

Why Use an Electronic Signature for Healthcare 

Electronic signature software goes beyond electronic health records (EHR). It supports more efficient paperwork processes across the entire organization.

First-rate electronic signature software does much more than just gather and store digital signatures. These solutions:

  • Enable patients to benefit from a more convenient experience that includes remote signing from any location on their preferred device
  • Empower employees to handle all aspects of paperwork management, including preparation and form creation, ID verification, compliance, and accessibility for those with disabilities
  • Allow the clinic to:
    • Generate self-service digital forms on its website 
    • Check the status of who has or has not signed documents
    • Send policy updates to all patients at once 
    • Offer different authentication options
    • Store templates for frequently used digital documents.

Meeting patient expectations is just as crucial as preserving a complete audit trail of who signed a document, including when and where the signature was made. Today’s eSignature solutions offer additional functionalities, including mobile, text, and email compatibility. Because compliance is of the utmost importance in the healthcare sector, these solutions also uphold the highest security requirements. Healthcare facilities can have peace of mind that their patients’ digital health information is protected.

Digital signature solutions can strengthen the relationship between a facility and its patients and enhance the organization’s overall processes.

Convenient

Signing documents with electronic signatures is quick and easy, which improves administrative processes and leaves staff enough time to focus on higher-priority activities. 

Less Costly

Replacing printed documents with an eSignature tool means more than just convenience for healthcare facilities. Paper and printing costs will be reduced, and processes will become more streamlined, which can help ensure that all employees make the best use of their time. 

Speed Up Paperwork

eSignature solutions can speed up paperwork processes on many levels. It’s much easier to search for a document on a computer than in a stack of papers. It’s also much more efficient to send documents to a doctor via email instead of paying an employee (or service) to deliver them. These programs enable a clear overview of a patient’s history just by typing in their name.

Track Workflows

Most companies experience more efficient workflows after just a few months of using an electronic healthcare signature solution.

Improves Patient Experience

Electronic signature software significantly improves the patient experience. It can reduce waiting times and free up staff for more patient-centric care. These programs can also reduce the chances that documents will be lost; all documentation is organized within the signature software, and every form is just one click away.

Electronic Signature for Healthcare: Use Cases

The patient experience is at the forefront of the quest for improved healthcare services and retention. Healthcare facilities face several problems preventing them from offering quality services to their patients. Here’s how an electronic signature solution can help:

Automate Patient Intake

One of the biggest challenges in the healthcare industry is poor patient intake. Collecting relevant patient data, consent forms, insurance, payments, and a range of other documents has been a pain point for all healthcare facilities for decades. 

An eSignature solution automates patient intake. It also enables the creation of templates for frequently used digital forms, including medical intake forms, resident onboarding documents, provider agreements, and other legal documents

Seamless Employee Onboarding

eSignatures for healthcare facilities don’t just improve the patient experience—they can also enhance many internal processes. Each time a new employee is hired, it’s necessary to provide clear documentation and onboarding procedures. Electronic signature software can help organizations create templates to be shared with new employees. 

Medical Record Revision

One of the most common reasons for human error in the healthcare industry is the lack of access to complete patient information. Organizations can automate uploading their patient forms into electronic medical records with a quality electronic signature solution. This will ensure that all information is centralized and accessible.

Requirements for eSignatures Under HIPAA

Every healthcare organization must comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, better known under its acronym, HIPAA. 

Legal Compliance

Healthcare facilities can use a digital signature solution to help them store data efficiently and securely while complying with patient privacy laws. Advanced privacy protection, threat detection, and a range of security measures can help organizations comply with HIPAA standards. 

User Authentication

To prevent disputes regarding whether the person who agreed genuinely to a contract had the authority to do so, covered entities need to create a verification system to validate the identity of all parties involved. Authentication tools like two-step verification, answering “secret knowledge” questions, specific eSignature software, and phone or voice permission can help solve this problem.

Message Integrity

Preserving the integrity of an agreement in transit and storage is crucial. eSignature software includes methods to prevent digital tampering once documents are signed. Because this issue is included in the HIPAA Security Rule, message integrity must be taken seriously. OCR Inspectors may conduct eSignature risk assessments and are tasked with ensuring a high degree of integrity in all areas during HIPAA audits.

Non-Repudiation

eSignatures should contain a timestamped audit trail to comply with HIPAA regulations. The audit trail should specify dates, times, locations, and the chain of custody. These details are collected if a signatory claims they did not agree to the contract terms. This data is collected to ensure that agreements are binding and enforceable in court and that consent to the disclosure of protected health information (PHI) cannot be disputed afterward. One way to help minimize repudiation is to give the signatory a printed or emailed copy of the document.

Ownership and Control

The last HIPAA regulation for using eSignatures concerns the copies of signed digital documents stored on the servers of eSignature service providers. All of the supporting documentation for an eSignature must be on the same document that is under the covered entity’s custody and control for the covered entity to guarantee the integrity of PHI. Except for the copies given to the signatory, all additional copies shall be digitally shredded.

FAQs About Electronic Signatures for Healthcare

Conventional ways of processing paperwork can cause major decreases in patient satisfaction and medical staff productivity. Using eSignature software can help. However, not all programs are equally beneficial for healthcare providers; platforms vary in their capabilities and ability to provide support. 

What is legally acceptable as an electronic signature?

Electronic signatures are legally acceptable in many forms. These include a typed name in a signature field, a scanned/digitized image of a handwritten signature attached to an electronic record, a handwritten signature created on a digital signature pad, or a command input on a display screen with a stylus device. A signature created by third-party software is also acceptable. 

Which documents cannot be signed electronically?

Several documents cannot be signed electronically. They include wills, testamentary trusts, state statutes governing divorce or family laws, court orders, official court documents, a notice of cancellation of utility services, termination notices for health/life insurance policies, and any document required for transporting hazardous materials or toxic substances. 

Electronic Signatures for Healthcare — What You Need to Remember

Digital signature solutions can help healthcare organizations simplify processes and make most administration procedures more efficient. Electronic documents save time and money and bring organizations closer to their patients. From better understanding a patient’s medical history to enhancing communication within the organization, digital signature tools can play a vital role in transforming the healthcare industry.

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