A sign of the times: How electronic signatures are streamlining workflows across 4 key service lines

Electronic signatures are a simple technology that can be implemented quickly and easily.

It promises to streamline today's paper- and time-intensive patient registration, consent and clinical trial workflows. This technology has the potential to save significant staff time, reduce paper, accelerate data archiving and security, boost compliance and improve patient and provider satisfaction. 

During an Interlace Health-sponsored September webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review, Dessiree Paoli, senior solution manager at Interlace Health, shared how electronic signatures can be used in key provider service areas and the benefits realized.

Four insights from the webinar: 

1. The COVID-19 pandemic has radically shifted patient expectations regarding technology in healthcare, readying patients for electronic signature solutions. Since patients have been forced into more remote engagement with their healthcare during the pandemic, their appetite for a consumer-like, technology-driven experience has increased.

2. Electronic signatures streamline registration of new orthopedics patients from electronic intake forms through appointment. A large orthopedics department in a metro area hospital could hypothetically process more than 500 new patient registrations a month, equaling 30,000 pieces of paper each year; this would require. 700 hours of staff time to manually transfer critical data from paper into the EHR, according to Ms. Paoli. "That is just registration paperwork," she said. "We aren't even looking at consents, discharge paperwork or any other forms that may need to be reviewed and signed."

A digital workflow now begins with generating intake forms when an appointment is made. Patients are guided through the process at their own pace, at home on their own device, providing electronic signatures and payments as required. Completed forms are archived in the EHR. "The patient spends less than 10 minutes throughout this entire digital experience, and the registration staff doesn't have to do anything other than a quick check that the forms are completed," Ms. Paoli said.

3. Both pulmonology and cardiology service areas manage consent forms more efficiently with electronic signatures. Besides typical paper and time costs, pulmonology consent forms may take up to 72 hours to appear in the EHR. Paper processes are prone to manual entry errors and can be misplaced. 

Now, when a pulmonologist orders a test with an electronic signature, a patient's wristband is scanned and all patient information is auto-populated. Forms are instantly archived, reducing risks for compliance issues and HIPAA violations. 

4. Clinical trial consent process is simplified. With an electronic signature, a physician can identify a patient who is a good candidate for a clinical trial and pull up the consent form digitally during an appointment to answer questions and facilitate signatures. Completed forms are instantly archived in the EHR and can be shared or accessed immediately by research staff. 

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