Electronic Signature for Healthcare Patient Forms

Anyone who has visited a medical office, participated in a clinical drug trial or been admitted to the hospital for a procedure has likely been required to fill out a standard set of patient forms. Typically these forms are completed with pen and paper, often requiring the patient to fill in information that may already exist in their electronic health record (EHR). Care providers must then collect and process these paper forms by entering or scanning the documents into the patient's EHR to record compliance.

Manually completing healthcare patient forms creates a poor patient experience and takes providers and staff away from their core mission of treating patients. Electronic signature offers a better solution to streamline the process of completing common healthcare admissions forms such as patient consent and HIPAA releases. 

Here are some common patient forms:

  • New patient intake form
  • Patient information and policies
  • Patient informed consent
  • Health information release authorization 
  • HIPAA disclosure form
  • Medical records release form
  • Financial policies
  • Notice of privacy practices
  • Consent to treatment
  • Patient rights and responsibilities

The challenges of completing admissions forms with paper-based processes

Today’s patient expectations are defined by their digital experience in their personal life —whether they’re shopping online, applying for a loan or completing intake and discharge forms. For healthcare facilities, this means patients do not want to wait days for important consent and HIPAA forms to arrive in the mail or have to decipher paper forms that have been scanned so many times the print is hard to read. It’s not enough to simply offer a PDF form on a website that the patient must then download, print out and return by mail or in person. Forms should be pre-populated with standard demographic information, such as name, address and date of birth. Returning these forms should be as simple as pressing a button. With shorter attention spans and more provider choices, patients who aren’t offered these online opportunities may grow impatient—and schedule their next appointment with another provider. 

On the provider side, manual admissions forms also negatively impact productivity and cost-efficiency. The legacy systems many medical practices are using to get agreements signed require staff to ensure the forms have been correctly filled out and often fill in missing or illegible information. After the paper forms are finally correctly updated, they must be scanned and copied. One copy goes into the patients’ chart, which must then be stored and other copies are routed to proper areas within the facility. During the routing process, the forms can be forgotten on a desk or potentially even lost. Staff also must retype patient information into the EHR system rather than focus on patients. According to Docusign research, the average healthcare employee spends more than an hour every week faxing, printing and scanning documents—40% of employees spend over 5 hours.

60% of patients want to use technology more for communicating with healthcare providers - Accenture

Plus, healthcare organizations must fiercely guard patient confidentiality and meet HIPAA requirements for managing electronic healthcare records and transactions. Paper-based methods open an organization to noncompliance risks. For instance, if somebody puts a form that contains information such as demographic data, medical history, insurance details or lab results on a desk and goes to lunch, that document is accessible to curious patients or other staff members. The lack of digitization in the informed consent process leads to organizational risk, whether it’s a lost consent or inability to showcase that the patient truly understands the procedure. 

How e-signature can help

Completing patient admissions forms using electronic signature technology improves experiences for patients and providers, all while maintaining compliance, security and privacy. It lets healthcare organizations focus on patient treatment, which means better patient experiences and improved care coordination. By using electronic signature, providers can even interact with patients through mobile devices, making it faster and easier to share information and obtain consent.

An example workflow of how electronic signatures can improve the patient experience is the following: 

  • The provider can electronically send the intake packet to a designated email address from within the EHR or take the digital forms to a patient’s bedside to complete on an electronic tablet. 
  • The patient receives an email notification to review and sign a document if they are remote or can directly sign the form on the electronic tablet.
  • Docusign eSignatures offers multiple options to verify signer identity before signing.
  • The intake packet automatically gets uploaded into the Electronic Health Record (EHR), either with or without a manual review.

Docusign is connected to the EHR and this can be done safely due to the built-in security features and the processes that e-signature providers follow.

Benefits of using e-signature for patient consent and HIPAA release forms

  • Simplify the patient experience: Make it possible for patients to complete necessary forms, HIPAA releases and consents remotely, quickly and easily. 
  • Meet patient needs: With elderly patients, having the flexibility to attain a signature in-person or online allows for paperwork to be digital but provides the experience needed for those who are not comfortable with computers.
  • Streamline compliance processes and protect privacy: Electronic signatures have many layers of security and authentication built into them, ensuring information remains private and secure.  
  • Accelerate billing and processing: Once forms are completed electronically, they can be automatically uploaded into the electronic health record (EHR) or your document management solution. In this way, an e-signature tool speeds up the process and reduces errors, letting you see patients sooner and receive payments faster.
  • Create better employee experiences: When staff spends less time on tedious paperwork, they have more time to focus on creating better experiences for patients. 

To learn more about how to use electronic signature for healthcare admissions paperwork, read Docusign eSignature for HIPAA Compliance