By Stephan Herron, CEO and president, Scriptel Corporation
For decades, healthcare providers have relied on putting pen to paper when it comes to signing off on prescriptions, discharge orders or even referrals to specialists. For patients, signatures need to be captured for reviewing and confirming care plans or after an office visit is completed. Although many hospitals and practices have made the move to some form of electronic signature solution, not everyone has adopted the technology. Enter COVID-19.
As the pandemic continues to push our nation’s healthcare system to the brink, provider organizations are ramping up efforts to implement digital, contactless consents. That includes the move to paperless workflows, something healthcare has struggled to adopt given the industry’s love-hate relationship with paper.
eSignature technology allows digital documents to be approved and authenticated with a handwritten signature, replacing the traditional ink on paper or “wet signature.” Most importantly, eSignatures eliminate a touchpoint – helping contain the spread of COVID-19 while easing patient fears of contracting the virus during healthcare visits.
In 2000, Congress passed the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-Sign Act; Public Law 106-229) which recognized electronic signatures as valid under U.S. law. When it comes to its use in healthcare, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) stated eSignatures fulfill the HIPAA Privacy Rule as long as they satisfy the applicable requirements of State contract law.
Beyond expediting signature collection, eSignature technology helps ease patient’s concerns about the safety of visiting the doctor’s while improving medical practice workflows – here’s how:
Prevent document loss
For healthcare organizations that rely on paper records, a fire, flood or natural disaster can be devastating. When superstorm Hurricane Sandy hit the New York/New Jersey shore, thousands of paper records were lost as the waters rose. To avoid history repeating itself, digital records with electronic signatures can be stored and organized on servers or in the cloud, allowing providers to keep critical records safe, to restore operations quickly, and to make the disaster recovery process more manageable.
Increase operational efficiency
Print. Sign. Scan. Store. Retrieve. Delete. As providers increasingly replace paper documents with digital versions, it is nearly impossible to achieve an efficient digital workflow that relies on paper and physical signatures. With electronic signatures, Sign and Receive are the only steps needed to modernize workflows so the focus can be put back on managing your practice instead of managing paper.
The shift from paper to digital documents is not new. However, with the current increased safety protocols needed to be implemented while handling documents, providers are looking to swiftly and effectively replace physical with digital versions – which often occurs when transferring from paper records to an electronic health record (EHR) system. It would be nearly impossible to achieve an efficient digital workflow that relies on paper and wet signatures. With an overall paperless workflow, achieved through the implementation of eSignatures, document management becomes more efficient and signature processes are significantly streamlined.
Reduce costs while saving time
Printing documents solely to have them signed wastes both time and money. Capturing signatures electronically can dramatically reduce the cost of consumables like paper, pre-printed forms, ink and toner, printer maintenance and record transportation, storage and destruction. In addition, a fully digital document can be saved and organized on a hard drive or in the cloud, eliminating the need for tangible storage. As a result, organizations can shrink their physical footprint, and reduce related overhead costs.
Improve the patient experience
In today’s ultra-connected world, consumers simply expect a digital experience. To attract and retain new patients, modernizing your document approval process by balancing personalized service with speed and convenience is key. eSignatures create a streamlined experience for your patients, accelerating document authorization, resulting in faster, easier transactions.
Despite efforts to go paperless, data shows that paper consumption in healthcare continues to rise. U.S. healthcare organizations generate nearly two billion pounds of paper and cardboard waste each year. eSignatures allow your organization to achieve a truly paperless workflow that is eco-friendly. Less paper means fewer trees harvested and less waste produced by your organization.
Using ink to sign a paper document is quickly becoming a thing of the past. As providers large and small work to digitize their processes, the transition to eSignatures is critical to achieve a truly paperless workflow. Simply put, digital documents and electronic signatures are essential for healthcare organizations to meet patient demands while helping improve office workflows so providers and their staff can focus on what’s most important – patient care.