A growing amount of the things that we do each day are performed remotely or online. Everyday errands and tasks like reading the news, grocery shopping, and even going to the doctor are increasingly going digital.
The number of telehealth visits in the U.S. grew by 4000% in April 2020 with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the pandemic, many healthcare providers faced the challenge of providing care online for the very first time. This meant that things like complying with HIPAA and securing protected health information (PHI) required new processes and presented new challenges many practices weren’t used to.
Providers could no longer simply hand a clipboard and a pen to a patient – So how could healthcare providers collect signatures on privacy notices and other paperwork in a convenient, secure, and compliant manner? This is where electronic signature software comes in.
Electronic signature software offers a simple solution to this conundrum. But beyond simply allowing for the provision of care without ever interacting with a patient face-to-face, this software has a host of benefits for healthcare practices.
It doesn’t matter whether you are seeing patients in person or online. Electronic signature software can transform workflows and streamline operations.
Below, we’ll take a closer look at electronic signature software and the pivotal role it plays in helping small healthcare practices seamlessly interact with patients and complete day-to-day requirements.
How Can You Use Electronic Signatures in Healthcare?
Electronic signatures have cemented themselves as a critical tool for hospitals, healthcare clinics, insurance companies, and doctors’ offices of all sizes. Not only are electronic signatures making it easier for healthcare professionals to remotely communicate with patients, but they are also simplifying and streamlining many important daily processes.
In 2009, the Obama administration introduced the HITECH Act. This act encouraged the adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) by healthcare providers in an attempt to improve patient record security and allow for easier monitoring of HIPAA compliance.
When the HITECH Act was signed into law, only 10% of hospitals were using EHRs. 9 years later, 86% of office-based physicians had switched from paper to electronic health records. With so much of the health records now being stored electronically, it is a natural progression to adopt electronic signatures.
Some common healthcare forms that can be signed using electronic signatures include:
- Patient admission and intake forms
- Patient consent forms and releases
- Chart notes and patient medical records
- Procedure approvals
- Claims processing
- Staff onboarding documents
When healthcare forms are signed electronically, they can seamlessly integrate into a patient’s EHR and allow for healthcare professionals to ensure better compliance and more seamless operations. We’ll take a closer look at some of the benefits of using electronic signatures in small healthcare practices below.
The Benefits of E-Signature Software for Small Healthcare Practices
Electronic signatures naturally go hand-in-hand with the requirements of electronic health records within the healthcare community. But, there are also a number of reasons why you might consider using electronic signature software for a healthcare practice simply for the benefit of improving all-over processes. Here are some of the main benefits that are most relevant to the small and independent healthcare practice industry.
Accuracy and Completion
When creating digital documents for electronic signing, the configurations can be set to require that certain fields are filled out. Documents cannot be completed without all necessary signature fields signed.
No longer will you discover that a patient has left an important field blank or forgotten to sign the final page of their paperwork packet.
Electronic signatures can dramatically increase efficiency with paperwork completion. Documents signed by hand do not need to be scanned to generate electronic copies to file in a patient’s EHR – they can simply be saved and uploaded into patient files. Or, if the electronic signature software used is integrated with the medical software used, the entire process can be automated.
Additionally, many e-signature software solutions automate filing. They can automatically send signed documents to be filed in the appropriate location. Workflow is dramatically improved when e-signatures are introduced.
Reduced Wait Times
Much of the wait time in healthcare settings can be attributed to time spent filling out paperwork and waiting for paperwork to be received. Using e-signature software, important paperwork, prescriptions, medical records, and approvals can be shared in just a few seconds.
With electronic signatures in use, patients can fill out intake paperwork before they get to the office, telehealth appointments can easily be handled, physicians can send prescriptions straight to the pharmacy, and EHR can be filed away in a few clicks.
Sign from Anywhere
Electronic signature software allows you to sign securely from anywhere, which is especially important with the increase of telehealth visits. This also means that signed documents can be returned to the sender almost instantaneously and that healthcare professional can quickly and easily collaborate with their colleagues on patient care.
Secure and Legally Binding
The Electronic Signature in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) Act was passed in 2000. With its passage, e-signatures have been given the same legal status as pen and ink signatures. Therefore, documents signed electronically are legally binding when they meet certain requirements:
- Must demonstrate a clear intent to sign
- Must have consent to electronic business conducting clearly agreed to
- A clear signature association record must be maintained
- A clear signature attribution (audit trail) should be present
- There must be an easy retention method or way to produce documents as needed
Security efforts are also essential with electronic signatures being used in the healthcare industry. Because most of the information shared by patients is sensitive and confidential, it’s important that the right security protocols are in place. E-signature products can use methods like encryption, signing certificates, audit trails, and more to ensure the security of all documents signed using their platform.
With Foxit eSign, security is at the forefront of everything we do. From SOC 2 Type 2 compliance to dynamic encryption, helpful visibility controls, audit trails, and more, you can feel confident that your patient’s signed documents are kept secure and confidential. Take a look.
Minimize Clutter and Go Paperless
By converting records to electronic records, you allow your practice the convenience of going paperless.
Whether it’s PHI or personnel files, your records can be kept entirely electronically while signatures are used to ensure an easy workflow. Electronic records are easier to navigate in the event of a HIPAA audit, simplify organization, and just make it easier to get things done.
Not only does the paperless process minimize clutter, but also reduces cost. You will spend less on printing, mailing, scanning, and storing paper documents when you take things digital.
How Can You Continue to Secure PHI and Stay HIPAA Compliant?
HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, was first signed into law in 1996. Very generally, HIPAA protects patient privacy. Under HIPAA, a patient’s PHI cannot be shared without consent, and any sharing must be done so under the strictest of rules and guidance.
Particularly notable is the HIPAA Security Rule. This rule places specific requirements on the storage of electronically protected health information. The requirements ensure that it is secured just as much as paper files would be.
To be considered legitimate under HIPAA, e-signatures must also consider the federal guidelines in the UETA and ESIGN Act. They place additional guidelines on electronic signatures. Specifically, they outline the security and authentication required for a legitimate e-signature.
Foxit eSign takes legally binding electronic signatures to the next level by being HIPAA certified and compliant with ESIGN. Find out more about our compliance efforts here and how you can utilize them to better maintain compliance every step of the way.
Take Your Healthcare Practice to the Next Level Today
Now is the time to take your healthcare practice to the next level, and adopting HIPAA-compliant e-signature software is one of the easiest ways to do this.
There are so many considerations to make sure that you are collecting HIPAA-compliant signatures and protecting PHI; it’s essential that you choose the right electronic signature solution to partner with. Foxit eSign electronic signature software can:
- Integrate with any medical practice software you use
- Minimize onboarding efforts with its easy-to-use interface and options
- Keep PHI secure with SOC 2 Type 2 compliance to dynamic encryption, helpful visibility controls, audit trails, and more
- Help you meet and maintain compliance efforts with both HIPAA, ESIGN, and UETA
- Improve the patient experience with faster and more efficient paperwork completion
Streamline your digital paperwork process by allowing signing and sending to be completed in seconds