“Can I capture just one electronic signature from the patient and apply it to all registration forms?”
This is a common question from the audience during our webinars and in presentations of our Access electronic forms and electronic signatures technology. When people ask this question, what they are really saying is, “I’d like to speed up the patient registration process by having the patient sign one ‘super form’ as opposed to signing five individual forms.” These might include forms such as the consent acknowledgement for treatment, HIPAA release form, financial responsibility form, patient portal form and others.
If you think about it, this approach makes a lot of sense in theory. And often, the conversation quickly moves toward asking if our electronic forms technology can do this. The answer is yes, it absolutely can. However, the more important question to ask is should the technology do this. That is a much more difficult question to answer, and it's not one we can answer for you.
Policy vs. technology
That’s because it’s not so much a technology question as it is a policy question—and policy is dictated by the hospital's legal staff and healthcare industry regulators. Take for example our customer San Juan Regional Medical Center, a 194-bed, level III trauma center located in northwest New Mexico—as an ISO organization, they needed to clearly track their patient forms and approval cycle. Like many hospitals, SJRMC has a number of specific forms in use, each with its own purpose or relevance to a particular patient or procedure. Given the specialization of care today, it’s becoming increasingly important to ensure patient histories, informed consents, insurance forms and more are explained fully to patients and that patient signatures are explicitly tied to the corresponding documents.
For this reason, most of our customers choose to continue the practice of capturing electronic signatures on each individual form. With provider liability and the potential risks involved with inaccurate or uninformed consents, most hospitals find the slight convenience that may be added by signing one master form simply isn’t worth the potential legal downside.
Going electronic makes a huge difference
However, just making the move away from paper forms and processes to an electronic forms and signatures solution in itself affords many advantages in time, cost and risk mitigation for hospitals. Electronic signatures help reinforce compliance and minimize litigation because each signature is time and date stamped—giving you a definitive record of when the signature was applied to the exact document in question.
Sure, the idea of a single-signature “super-form” to rule them all certainly sounds nice and could speed up the process of patient registration in a perfect world. But every hospital should weigh the excitement of greater convenience against the importance of compliance and risk mitigation. It’s also critical to think about the downstream clinical processes that could be affected by a universal form approach.
Once you’ve streamlined your patient registration process with the right eForms and electronic signatures technology, you may find capturing multiple signatures feels just as easy as capturing one. You’ll reap the rewards of speed while keeping any compliance concerns in check.