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It’s 2018 and innovation among healthcare providers is looking strong.

Hospitals want to eliminate paper.

Hospitals see the value in patient electronic signature solutions.

Hospitals are ready to improve the patient experience.

All this positive momentum is great! However, if the path to paperless is not approached strategically and implementation of a patient electronic signature solution is not well-thought out, hospitals may find new technology and processes more harmful than helpful.

It’s important to be aware of some of the common pitfalls we see with eSignature solutions deployed in Patient Access areas so you can be sure to avoid them! (FYI, we’ll talk about the bedside eSignature experience in the next article in this series.)

We’ll start with registration or patient access because …

  • This is where patients enter your hospital.
  • It’s a “first impression” opportunity.
  • It’s the area where 99% of hospitals first test the waters with patient eSignature solutions

The “eSignature goals” for Patient Registration as we typically see them are simple:

Goal 1 | Eliminate paper

Goal 2 | Expedite the registration process

Goal 3 | Improve patient experience (Note: This directly relates to an improved HCAHPS scores strategy.)

eSignature solutions can absolutely achieve these goals, but only if approached with a comprehensive understanding of both your clinician processes and patient expectations. What we’re trying to avoid is the “one step forward and two steps back” scenario. With this in mind, every hospital should consider the following when evaluating electronic signature solutions:

eSignature capture devices

Not all eSignature capture devices are created equal. Let’s face it, we’ve all been in a home improvement store, grocery store or a bank where we were asked to sign for our purchase or transaction, only to find…

…The screen was so scratched up you could not even see your dang signature.

…The stylus is about as “fine-point” as a broken twig.

…You apply your signature only to see a pixelated blob that looks about the same as if you were to sign with the stylus between your toes.

Now let’s move that experience to a patient registration scenario. If it frustrates us at the grocery store, a poor eSignature device will send us over the edge in a hospital admission setting. Clearly, you should consciously choose an eSignature device that’s nothing but easy to use and produces a quality signature. Anything short of this sets your patients up for a bad experience and a lousy first impression, even though cumbersome paper forms might be eliminated.

“What the heck am I signing?”

This is a VERY common question patients ask when presented with LCD devices for eSignature capture.  Typically, all they see is an area of the signature device that looks something like this

| x:______________________________ |

Hence the question, what the heck am I signing?

A shortcut signature capture like this is okay if you’re buying a gallon of milk. But this is a hospital setting—it’s a much more personal, serious and potentially life-altering experience. Oftentimes, a patient may stop the process to ask what they’re signing, and in many cases, request to revert to paper forms. (We see this all the time.) It slows the patient registration process and hurts the patient experience out of the gate. (Bye, bye good HCAHPS scores!)

The right eSignature solution can easily remedy this issue.

Solution 1 | Provide LCD devices that are able to show at least some “form relevant content” on the screen, such as “I [patient name] hereby agree to sign the General Consent for Treatment on this date [date field]”.  With this minimal addition of clarification, the patient has a basic understanding of and greater confidence in what they are signing.

Solution 2 | Provide the patient with a convenient tablet device with which they can both read the digital form in its entirety and electronically sign that same form. This of course is the ideal solution for maximum patient clarity and fully informed consent.

While these may seem like very basic considerations, our 15 years of experience in working with hospitals of all sizes has shown that sometimes these most basic but crucial aspects of moving to paperless patient signatures simply get overlooked. 

We’ve even seen hospitals where so many patients refused to use the clunky eSignature solution, registration staff give up and return to paper processes. So much for healthcare innovation.

I hope these small but powerful nuggets of experience, perspective and knowledge will help you avoid common pitfalls and choose the best eSignature solution to support your patient experience from start to finish.



Cody Strate

Written by Cody Strate

For more than 10 years, Cody has helped healthcare organizations worldwide eliminate the costs and risks of paper through e-forms and e-signature solutions. In addition to helping others achieve their paperless goals, Cody finds time to put his biochemistry degree to work in the kitchen testing out new recipes on his unsuspecting family.