An electronic signature is a generic term representing various ways that a digital record can be signed and validated. An electronic signature may also be referred to as an e-signature or digital signature.
Electronic signatures can take the form of a digitized signature made with an electronic pen and tablet or a scan of a pen-on-paper signature. They can also be based on biometrics such as a fingerprint or a digital certificate stored on the signer's computer or mobile device. They can also be typed and verified through various multi-factor authentication methods.
Most healthcare IT (HIT) systems, such as electronic medical record (EMR) systems, will have some sort of electronic signature functionality used by providers, patients, and office staff.
The Different Forms of Electronic Signatures
In healthcare environments, digitized signatures made with an electronic pen and tablet are most often seen in clinics and hospitals. Patients may use them to sign off on disclosures or to authorize payments.
The other main form of a digitized signature is a scan of a pen-on-paper signature. The scan is stored on the user’s device and can be inserted into PDFs and other documents.
Biometric forms of digital signatures can use fingerprints, retinal scans, or pen strokes to authenticate the person signing.
Digital signatures use a cryptographic key to authenticate the user. The high level of encryption associated with digital signatures makes them acceptable for applying signatures to online documents.
Electronic Signatures and HIPAA
In the US, patient privacy regulations such as HIPAA have strict requirements around the disclosure of protected health information (PHI). HIPAA requires a patient’s signature before certain information can be disclosed. This has led to some discussion as to whether electronic signatures are allowed in a HIPAA-compliant environment.
The consensus is that electronic signatures are allowed under HIPAA as long as the security and integrity of the PHI can be reasonably guaranteed. An analysis of a provider’s systems by an expert is recommended to ensure HIPAA compliance.
How TempDev Can Help With Electronic Signatures
TempDev's team of NextGen consultants, developers, and trainers support your needs whether you're looking to implement, switch, or even upgrade your current EHR system. From dashboards and revenue cycle consulting to automation and workflow redesign, TempDev offers the tools you need to make the most of your NextGen EHR system, with top tips and tricks that will ensure your success now and in the future.
With TempDev's NextGen dashboards, templates, and reports, you can better support your patients' needs. Our team is here to help you design, organize, and implement the whole system and offer tips and guidance based on industry best practices.
Contact us here or by calling us at 888.TEMP.DEV to get the help you need working with electronic signatures.
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