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What are the Legal Ramifications of Electronic Forms and Records?

Questions are always coming up about how health care practices can be compliant with HIPAA and other legal requirements when utilizing electronic medical records, digitized practice management software and/or online forms.
Question: Is a handwritten signature required for HIPAA compliance?
Answer: Currently, no standards exist under HIPAA for electronic signatures. HIPAA rules recommend that electronic transfers of personal health information and access to it are protected by encryption and authentication.
Question: What is an electronic signature and is it valid?
Answer: In the Federal  ELECTRONIC SIGNATURES IN GLOBAL AND NATIONAL COMMERCE ACT [ESIGN Act] of June 30, 2000, Sec 106 (5) states: ELECTRONIC SIGNATURE.—The term ‘‘electronic signature’’ means an electronic sound, symbol, or process, attached to or logically associated with a contract or other record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record.
(a) A record or signature may not be denied legal effect or enforceability solely because it is in electronic form.
(b) A contract may not be denied legal effect or enforceability solely because an electronic record was used in its formation.
(c) If a law requires a record to be in writing, an electronic record satisfies the law.
(d) If a law requires a signature, an electronic signature satisfies the law.
Question: What if I want to have a patient’s signature on the HIPAA notice and on their other electronic records?
Answer: SPF’s works with a company that will provide electronic pads on which the patient can sign when they are in the office, and the signature is biometrically secured and bound to the document.
Dr. Keith Rossein