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eSignature Solutions: A Necessary Component of Complete, Compliant Care

Electronic signatures can eliminate much of the friction and redundancy created by paper-based workflows, but a viable solution must balance performance and security.

The COVID pandemic necessitated the need for touchless solutions in healthcare as the industry worked to keep its doors open and providers and patients safe. While electronic signatures have helped reduce reliance on physical forms and clipboards, the benefits of eSignature technology extend well beyond the consumer experience.

A 2020 Forrester survey of 450 senior IT and business decision-makers across North America, Western Europe, and Asia Pacific found that digital document processes, including eSignatures, are essential to business continuity to reduce risk and maintain revenue. However, around 50-percent of respondents indicated they use manual or paper-based processes with minimal investments in digital document processes, which put customer retention and revenue resilience at risk.

In healthcare, efficiency is vital to smaller practices with limited technical knowledge and resources to dedicate to modernizing their document processes. But the benefits of implementing an electronic signature solution cannot be overstated, considering the numerous processes that the technology can streamline. Still, given the highly regulated nature of U.S. healthcare, providers must be diligent in selecting an eSignature solution to maintain compliance with HIPAA laws, which protect sensitive health information.

eSignature use cases for providers

The adoption of electronic signatures is crucial to a highly efficient provider practice, mainly around patient onboarding and staff credentialing, but other workflows will benefit from the use of eSignatures.

Patient intake

Patient intake forms are a necessary component of delivering care and receiving proper reimbursement. Not only must patients complete HIPAA forms regarding the use and disclosures of protected health information for care purposes, but they must also give consent for the treatment or admission to a healthcare facility.

For the former, patients can receive a consent form before performing a test, surgery, or other treatment. For the latter, patients can complete forms for a scheduled admission, or in the case of emergency, an attending provider can sign the admission form or the treating provider can sign this remotely while the patient is in transit to the hospital.

Patient discharge

Discharge forms can represent another bottleneck wherein a provider must demonstrate that patient is ready to leave a healthcare facility. These forms include physician notes reflecting readiness for discharge, discharge plan discussion with patient and family/caregiver, discharge plan discussion with attending provider, a description of the discharge plan, and other therapy notes if applicable. Again, the ability to sign off quickly ensures the most efficient process for the provider and patient.

Provider credentialing

Provider credentialing is critical for a healthcare organization to grant clinical privileges to its most important staff. As part of this multistep process, provider organizations must vet a provider’s qualifications for practicing medicine. Payers — both public and private — conduct provider credentialing with the aid of credentialing-verification organizations in many cases. A failure to complete the process efficiently puts revenue at risk as provider organizations cannot promptly bill for services. Digital document solutions, including electronic signatures, allow for quicker information sharing and approvals.

Home health and assisted living forms

Depending on a patient’s condition, a provider may need to complete forms authorizing home healthcare or admittance to a long-term care facility.

Form 485 is required by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for home healthcare services. Providers can use an eSignature to complete the home health certification and plan of care form and ensure patients receive timely services in the comfort of their homes.

A digital process for completing forms for admittance to an assisted living community allows patients, family members, and case managers to make the transition of care a seamless one for the patient, with necessary information moving electronically from provider to provider, such as a physician’s order for admission to a nursing home or treatment, a patient’s medical history and physical assessment.

Medical record requests/updates

Current federal regulation aims to support patient access to health information, but the onus is on providers to respond promptly. Whether patients want access to their records or wish to update their medical history, a digital document solution eliminates the back-and-forth tedium of paper-based workflows.

This list is by no means exhaustive as other internal human resources activities can be streamlined using electronic signatures. In any case, each of these workflows requires dedicated staff to manually sift through and scan paper documents to maintain compliance with federal and state laws and payer requirements for reimbursement. An electronic solution saves time and money, allowing resources to be allocated to patient-facing activities central to a provider organization’s success.

Choosing the right electronic signature solution

The marketplace is full of electronic signature solutions. But are they a fit for the healthcare industry? That is the question that should be top of mind for providers looking to eliminate paper-based workflows in favor of digital solutions to modernize their practices and make the business of healthcare frictionless.

Affordability, ease of use, and integration with current systems and workflows are important considerations when evaluating an eSignature solution for a provider practice. Considering the highly regulated nature of healthcare, privacy and security should be at the top of the list of considerations.

For an electronic signature to comply with federal law, it must clearly signify a signer’s intent; be recorded and retained; and adhere to standards for record integrity. In other words, the law requires providers to prove that patients signed these documents willingly and with full knowledge of their legally binding nature.

For providers to achieve peace of mind regarding their electronic signature solution, they should consider whether the technology contains necessary security protocols to ensure that protected health information and other sensitive data are stored and protected in a manner that ensures compliance with HIPAA. The privacy and security rule demands both the security of personal data and the means to retrieve it quickly.

Given these strict demands on data privacy, providers should consider whether an eSignature solution is using state-of-the-art security methods (e.g., blockchain) to secure information in a manner that meets the strictest of data privacy laws.

Electronic signatures can eliminate much of the friction and redundancy created by paper-based workflows. Still, providers cannot afford to overlook the importance of a solution that offers both top-of-the-line performance and security.


Consensus Cloud Solutions, Inc. leverages its technology heritage to transform simple digital  documents into meaningful, actionable information. Documents can be transformed through the application of Artificial Intelligence, (such as advanced Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning) into data that enables the extraction of meaningful insights. This data exchange technology can be used to accelerate critical decision-making processes.

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