Electronic signature pads let phamacies eliminate paper-based patient sign-in logs and simplify document storage.
Mrs. Jones signed the patient log indicating she received her prescription and was asked if she wanted counseling. Nothing unusual about that; it happens millions of times a day, except the log Mrs. Jones signed was not a sheet of paper but a pad that electronically captures the information and attaches it to her computerized records.
Some independents and chain drugstores that have adopted e-signature capture see that the little pads pack a payback for a relatively modest investment. Right off the bat, e-signature smooths workflow by getting rid of juggling notebooks or clipboards and the problem of what to do with all that paper once the sheets are filled up. It puts records at the ready when auditors come calling. And it will satisfy at least one aspect of Uncle Sam's patient privacy requirements.
"We have developed a solution that prompts the patients only once to collect their signature in order to be in compliance with the privacy regulation," said Debbie Sheppard, ateb Inc., v.p. of sales. "Pharmacies will be fined if they haven't collected the signatures, but this will eliminate those fines."
Paper Rx logs aren't going to pass HIPAA muster for another reason, Sheppard added. "In a lot of pharmacies, you sign a notebook when you pick up a prescription, and you can look down and see all the other people who have signed," she said. "That's a no-no. Electronic signature capture eliminates that transferal of information."
E-signature logs also help when it comes time for the dreaded third-party audit. By having signatures stored electronically, the pharmacy can get the auditor out the front door a lot faster.
"Sometimes auditors take three weeks going through papers looking for every kind of mistake," said Donna Pilch, director of marketing and communications, Opus Core, Hauppauge, N.Y. "Now pharmacies can call up signatures by insurance carriers to show the auditors just what they're asking for and no more."
Deep-sixing the old paper logs also eliminates storage headaches. For example, the e-signature application from ateb Inc. gives pharmacies the option of storing signatures at the store level or in a central location. "The biggest advantage of this technology is elimination of paper," said Sheppard.
E-signature capture has not yet caught fire in pharmacy, said Randy Watts, healthcare pharmacy account manager with CompuTime in St. Louis. He thinks pharmacists aren't aware of all the benefits packed into the e-pads. However, he added, "There may be a certain unwillingness to adapt to changes, but I think it will be forced on them."
ScriptPro has found that its new e-signature is so popular that virtually all its SP Central customers have integrated the e-pads with that automated dispensing unit, said president Mike Coughlin. "Once customers see how it works and that the price isn't that expensive, it just seems to become an obvious benefit worth having," he said. "It's a very powerful addition to our product line."
Proponents are so high on the relatively inexpensive e-signature technology that they believe the paper Rx log will go the way of the leech jar. Coughlin said, "Every indication is that electronic signature capture will become the standard. The almost immediate reaction is that customers want it."
To reach ScriptPro, phone toll-free 1-(800) 606-7628 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Donna Pilch with Opus Core can be reached at (631) 582-6787, ext. 1206, and also by e-mail at email@example.com. To contact ateb, phone (919) 872-1274, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. CompuTime's Randy Watts can be reached at 1-(800) 423-8826, ext. 1210, or by e-mail at randy@CTSTL.com.
Carol Ukens. E-sign cuts pharmacy paper chase.