Implement E-Signatures Before EHRs

Patrick MctoshImplementing Electronic Signatures

By Patrick McTosh
LinkedIn: Profile

There are tons of articles about the benefits of electronic records from both the perspectives of physicians and patients. In fact, over 50% of medical professionals are already taking advantage of digital processes associated with EHRs.

While most electronic record solutions offer basic digital signature solutions, these signatures often to do not comply with industry regulations such as HIPAA because they are not verifiable outside of the actual software. In other words, these packaged solutions do not offer the full fledge benefits of a stand-alone electronic signature solution.

Yet, few healthcare organizations are actually taking advantages of the multiple benefits of these solutions before beginning their migration to EHRs. In case you were wondering, electronic signatures are more than just a digitalized version of a handmade signature. Unlike the latter, an electronic signature is a legal concept which can be any electronic sound, symbol or process attached to, or associated with, a contract or other record. Digital signatures can be considered as electronic signatures only if they meet stringent legal requirements and industry regulations.

Apart from a lower cost of implementation, here are some of the benefits to implementing an e-signature solution.

Compliance with HIPAA, JCAHO & PPACA
There are many software providers that offer electronic signature solutions designed exclusively for healthcare. With patented audit trail technology that enables compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, these types of e-signatures provide organizations with the first step to paperless communication without having to migrate to a full-fledged EHR. In addition, e-signature software allows users to share data in a legal and secure way with third parties and patients that just isn’t possible to do with current EHR applications.

Simpler Patient Consent Forms
Patient consent forms are often seen as a hassle. Consent forms often require the patient to print, sign, scan and fax back a consent form which is both annoying for patients who do not have an easy access to a fax machine and time consuming. Electronic signatures can be used in conjunction with both mobile devices and desktop computers to enable physicians and patients to sign electronically and on-the-spot, saving significant time and resources.

Reduce Human Error
By implementing an e-signature solution, you also reduce the risk of human error due to lost, damaged or incorrectly completed forms which can cause significant delays. Most e-signature software will actually guide the signer through the complete process ensuring that the document meets necessary requirements before sealing the document with a tamper-evident digital seal.

Reduced Management Costs
Solely by eliminating the need to print every single document that requires a signature by a professional or a patient, it’s easy to see how you can save millions of dollar each year after implementing an e-signature solution. Multiple copies are no longer needed as all the original documents are saved and can be easily shared by email. In addition, documents that require multiple signatures can be signed simultaneously by multiple users.

And, you can do all this without having to start the arduous process of moving towards a fully integrated EHR.

Additional Resources

  1. – What are the advantages of electronic health records?
  2. College of Nurses of Ontario – Electronic Signatures/
  3. Blue Sky – 3 Tips for integrating Electronic Signature in Healthcare Staffing

About the author:  Patrick McTosh has deeply immersed himself into the IT world over the past decade.  From his early days tinkering on his own sites, to his computer science engineering days at McGill University, Patrick has had his own successes as a small business owner and freelancer, and now passes on his success to other small business owners as a consultant.  Feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn.