The concept of digital completion refers to an approach that emphasizes the end-to-end digitization of the customer journey. It’s no longer enough for healthcare professionals to adopt one-off digital tools if patients are otherwise subjected to legacy channels and siloed systems that don’t communicate smoothly. Therefore, eSignatures for healthcare are just one piece of the bigger digital puzzle. But they are an important one. Here, we’ll discuss what makes eSignatures such a crucial part of any digital completion initiative.
Traditional Signatures Prolong Time to Completion
The healthcare industry is bound by complex compliance requirements and an intricate network of players (e.g., doctors, nurses, patients, insurance companies). It’s all too easy to fall back on physical paperwork and wet signatures to ensure HIPAA compliance and avoid liabilities.
But healthcare workers and the patients they serve are drowning in paperwork. Paperwork steals the precious time of people who need to be focused on saving and improving lives. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), 60% of its members said that “administrative simplification” should be the organization’s priority. Paperwork similarly burdens patients, who are forced to deal with bureaucracy while juggling the physical and emotional demands of their treatment.
Imagine a cancer patient who shows up at a clinic to receive chemotherapy. They are handed a clipboard and made to fill out forms where they likely are asked to repeat information they provided before. Then they need to sign a consent form. This just adds to the burden of an already challenging time.
There are other situations when paperwork and wet signatures aren’t just burdensome, but impossible. Telehealth has revolutionized the standards of patient care, allowing patients to access medical evaluations and guidance without coming to a physical location. But it also makes traditional paperwork requirements impossible.
Whether a process takes place within a clinic or hospital setting, or a virtual setting, one thing is for sure: traditional paperwork and wet signatures prolong time to completing a healthcare task. But why? From working with a variety of healthcare providers, we have seen two challenges getting in the way of completion: silos and legacy channels. And wet signatures are symptomatic of these broader issues.
Silos: When Systems Don’t Communicate
Many healthcare providers have started to digitize aspects of their patient experience. The problem is that these technologies aren’t synced together, or fail to communicate with the backend operations.
For example, health insurance companies can allow hospitals to access patient information easily, but hospitals often fail to appropriately save this information for future use. This results in hospitals having to chase patients for information and consent that they may have already provided, prolonging time to completion.
Or take the example of a patient who has been treated in a clinic before, and is asked to fill out forms and sign documents that he has already provided in the past. The patient experience and operational efficiency have been tarnished even before treatment starts.
Legacy Channels: When Patients Are Forced to Use Outdated Formats
The second reason why it takes so long to complete a task is the prevalence of legacy channels. This certainly includes clearly outdated relics, such as fax machines and snail-mail. But it also includes channels that up until relatively recently were considered modern, such as email and PDFs. Requiring customers to add eSignatures to PDFs and email them back may seem digital and efficient. But today’s consumers expect an even faster, more instant channel. And they are likely to fail to complete or prolong the completion of any task that strays from the instant stratification standards set by the likes of Amazon.com and Uber.
One survey found that when customers didn’t complete a contract that required an eSignature, 27% of those customers lost or forgot about it, and 35% felt it wasn’t mobile- or user-friendly enough to complete.
Why Mobile-First eSignatures Promote Digital Completion
Mobile-first eSignature solutions combat the completion problems associated with siloed systems and legacy channels. When eSignatures and eForms are designed to be completed from the comfort of patients’ smartphones, two good things happen: First, the signature is instantly routed to the healthcare provider’s system, allowing it to be automatically stored in the patient’s electronic file. And second, patients are more eager to provide the signature because they can do so from any location: they don’t have to wait until they are in front of their computer inbox (or worse, fill out one of those forms attached to a clipboard in the waiting room).
Furthermore, mobile eSignatures for healthcare settings are meant to be part of a wider end-to-end digital customer journey. It’s not just the eSignature that’s digitized — it’s everything from the beginning to the end of the patient-facing process. Here are just a few of the digital capabilities that healthcare providers can harness to get more out of their eSignatures (and encourage digital completion):
1. eForms: Unlike physical forms or even PDFs, patients can fill out mobile-optimized eForms from the comfort of their home, the waiting room, or on the way to the clinic. They don’t need to be in any particular setting to complete these forms, allowing healthcare providers to reduce bottlenecks and save time.
2. ID verification: Remote patients can get their ID verified by simply taking a selfie, snapping a picture of their official ID (such as driver’s license or insurance card), and sending it to the healthcare provider via text message. The two images — the selfie and photo ID — are automatically compared for likeness and then saved in the provider’s system for future reference.
3. Digital payments: Patients should be able to securely and easily pay for healthcare services from their mobile phones as well. The added convenience of digital payments means that healthcare providers are less likely to have to chase customers for payments, as they would if it was done via phone or at the clinic.
eSignatures For Healthcare Are Part of a Greater Automated Workflow
Healthcare providers get the most value from eSignatures in healthcare settings when they are used as part of a fully automated digital workflow. When patients aren’t actively receiving treatment, they should be able to complete all the logistical aspects of their patient experience in a fast, streamlined, and mobile way. Faster time to completion means a better patient experience, more satisfied healthcare workers, and lower overhead costs — all without compromising on stringent compliance standards.