Improving Patient Consent Experience with Digital Signature

Nalaka Withanage Digital Health, Healthcare Digital Transformation, Patient Engagement

Decisions are made frequently in any medical context. Doctors must first decide on a diagnosis before determining which treatment is best for certain patients' needs. Patients must next evaluate what they have heard and determine whether or not to pursue that same course of treatment, request a second opinion, or refuse a particular operation.

This common scenario is where Informed Consent enters the picture.

This article will explore the importance of Informed Patient Consent. Moreover, this article will tap into the importance of adapting Electronic Patient Consent by digitizing patient consent processes.

What is Informed Patient Consent?

Patients given informed consent are aware of the dangers, alternatives, and potential advantages of any treatment they undergo. A patient can agree to treatment that they understand with informed consent. This information is critical since even treatments supposed to help a patient come with hazards, and patients must accept those risks to receive care.

Consent can be granted verbally or indirectly, such as when a patient rolls up their sleeve and provides their arm for blood pressure monitoring.

Moreover, you must seek the patient's explicit approval for more difficult operations, which normally gets done in writing by completing a consent form. Thus, healthcare organizations must provide the patient with all of the information they need about the treatment and capture that information in their notes.

Healthcare Scenarios where Patient Consent is Critical

Consider the following instances in which patient consent is critical:

1. Patients under 18 Years of Age

Minor children do not get deemed capable of making their own healthcare decisions. Physicians must, however, involve minor patients in making decisions about their care, taking into account the child's ability to participate.

A parent or guardian must usually consent to medical treatment for a child under eighteen. If a child under the age of 18 is subject to medical treatment, the child's parent or guardian must offer informed consent on the child's behalf.

2. Making a Substituted Medical Treatment Decision

By ensuring a clear understanding, informed consent builds confidence between the doctor and the patient. It also lowers the danger for both the patient and the physician. Patients can make the best choices for themselves, especially in substituted medical treatment decisions, with excellent communication about risks and options, and clinicians face less risk of legal action.

3. Urgent Medical Treatment

In an emergency, physicians may seek consent from a surrogate decision-maker, such as a family member, or administer treatment that a reasonable person would consider suitable and in the patient's best interests.

4. Clinical Trials

A potential research subject is someone who is considering participating in a clinical trial. In this regard, enrolling in the study refers to a person's decision to participate in a clinical experiment. The participant must then receive the opportunity to read the consent agreement and ask questions about anything they do not understand as a possible study subject. This involves a wide range of legal and ethical considerations for the practitioners of the study.

The Issues with a Paper-based, Manual Patient Consent Process

The following are some of the most pressing issues associated with paper-based, manual patient consent:

A Hotspot for Errors

Because paper-based consent forms typically get written by hand, error rates are unquestionably high. This issue can impact the patient's experience, understanding, and clinic and operating room efficiency and lead to legal action in worst-case scenarios.

Slow Processing Times

The paper-based process has many flaws. For instance, the patient must sign in person. Then, the doctor must give the document to his administrative personnel. Then, postal services would be required to deliver documents between providers, and so on. Moreover, you must repeat the process if many people are required to review or sign off on a document. This outdated method 

is time-consuming and prone to errors and data loss.

Scanning Requirement Difficulties

When a consent form with the incorrect patient label gets scanned into a hospital's electronic medical record system, it will be inaccurately indexed and sorted into the electronic record of the wrong patient. This form can be exceedingly difficult to work out, takes a long time, and upsets everyone involved.

Remote Identity Verification Difficulties

The goal of Remote Consent is to allow the parties involved to participate in the informed consent process in a manner comparable to what would occur in a regular, face-to-face situation. Even though modern technology makes it feasible, the difficulties of verifying identification when signing remotely remain clear.

Lost Signed Forms

Obtaining paper-based informed consent is notoriously complicated and time-consuming for healthcare facilities. When paper-based informed consents are misplaced, it results in incredibly expensive medical service delays, frustrated patients, and a disgruntled medical team.

The Importance of Digitising Patient Consent Process

Adapting Electronic Patient Consent forms can be extremely beneficial. Some of these benefits include the following:

1. Ability to Integrate into the Patient Portal

It is critical to have quick access to medical records in an emergency. In this context, digitally signed documents can be easily and securely transferred between physicians, providing timely access to vital health information.

2. Frictionless, Efficient, Secure

Regarding time management and ease of usage, signing papers digitally surpasses paper-based consent. By digitizing the patient consent process, all parties involved are relieved of excessive administrative burdens, resulting in a smooth, efficient, and secure process.

3. Virtual Healthcare Ready

Electronic patient consent solutions make long-distance medical document exchanges as simple as legally binding as physical signatures. This option makes it virtual healthcare ready, allowing doctors to email signed prescriptions to patients who are far away, among other things.

4. Fully Legally Compliant

Depending on where you are in the world, you will almost certainly get confronted with legislation that directly or indirectly impacts how you store papers, obtain signatures, or securely transmit patient data.

Fortunately, electronic patient consent forms comply with these requirements, allowing for a legally compliant organization.

5. Digital Audit Trails

Unlike manual, paper-based informed consent, which is prone to becoming lost along the way, digitizing the patient consent process allows for digital audit trails that enable real-time monitoring of informed consent.


While many healthcare providers and institutions are only now realizing the importance of digitization, a few promising initiatives have been in place for a few years.

Now is a great time to reassess your company's manual operations and develop new approaches to improve consent and intake workflows, manage compliance, and streamline processes. Consider digitizing patient consent processes and adapting an Electronic Patient Consent system today.