How Paper Trails Protect Doctors with e-Signatures

Dec 13, 2023

Paper trails and e-signatures both play a role in protecting you as a business.

Paper trails keep a record of the important actions taken by all parties, complete with timestamps and a chronology. By using an e-signature service that also has a paper trail, you can better prove if a client or third party has tried to tamper with documents, as there is a trusted third party with the original documents, IP addresses, and timestamps. Keep reading to dig into the nitty gritty of e-signature paper trails for doctors and medical professionals.

Security for Medical Professionals with e-Signatures and Paper Trails

To protect your business or your personal assets, some e-signature service providers give you features that help prove the authenticity of the signature, which may work for you in the case of a lawsuit.  These features can include:

  1. IP Address and Login: Having the IP address and login credentials helps verify the identity of the signer and ensures that the signature process was carried out by authorized personnel.
    1. For medical professionals: This is crucial to access control for HIPAA compliance if you’re a covered entity!
  2. Email Verification: Matching the email used for e-signing with records on file serves as an additional layer of identity confirmation and ensures that the authorship of the signature is non-repudiable.
  3. Time Stamps: Time stamps are crucial for establishing the chronology of events. They record when the document was accessed, when each page was signed, and when the signing process was completed. Consistency in timestamps across all steps is essential.
    1. For medical professionals: This minimizes your vulnerabilities and automates bookkeeping, so there’s less pending paperwork left once a document is signed. 
  4. Signing Each Page: By recording the signatures on each page and not just the final one, you can attest to every page having been reviewed by the signer without having a burden of proof.
    1. This carries on best practices from the physical realm into the digital. Just as physical documents often require multiple signatures across different pages, so can digital ones. Cover your bases!
  5. Checksum Integrity Protection: To verify the integrity of the signed document, the final version should be run through a checksum function. This practice makes any tampering with the document’s content visible after it’s been signed.
    1. For medical professionals: Rely on modern cybertechnology to authenticate and verify signed documents, rather than scanning through two copies side-by-side to look for discrepancies.
  6. Keeping a Ledger: Using state-of-the-art technology to systematically capture signing data in an immutable ledger protects all parties to the document as it pertains to disputes on authenticity and veracity.
    1. For medical professionals: Ledgers are a neutral resource that all parties can look to to resolve any disputes that may arise. Paper trails attached to a ledger offer the highest degree of transparency.

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Protecting Your Practice Through Paper Trails

Now, let’s delve into how having a comprehensive paper trail can protect you in case of a lawsuit:

  • Legal Verification: In the event of a dispute, the paper trail offers concrete evidence that all necessary precautions were taken to verify the signer’s identity and maintain the document’s integrity in the signing process.
  • HIPAA Compliance: Healthcare providers must adhere to strict regulations, namely HIPAA. By not sharing sensitive patient data but only recording the date of the signature, doctors remain HIPAA-compliant.
  • Financial and Accounting Compliance: Many jurisdictions require businesses to maintain records of electronic transactions. Paper trails ensure compliance with these tracking laws by documenting the entire e-signature process.

While having a robust paper trail significantly reduces the risk of disputes and lawsuits, it’s important to note that nothing can guarantee absolute protection. But, maintaining a detailed paper trail is the most proactive step you can take as a healthcare provider to safeguard yourself and your patients’ interests.

Not all e-signature service providers provide a paper trail, which can be used to defend yourself and your business if you get sued. Make sure to look for A, B, and C, and if you want to take the guesswork out, click here to give us a try. We offer each of these at Countersign.

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