Electronic Patient Consent Forms signed on Tablet PCs
SOFTPRO and its partner, the publishing house proCompliance Verlag, exhibited another “feature in the doctor’s toolbox”- Documented Patient Information using a Tablet PC and the handwritten signature – at the Mobile Insider Forum (www.mobilkonf.de) in Spitzingsee on June 6-8 and at ITeG, an Information Technology show for the health sector held April 26-28 in Frankfurt/Main (Germany). This system allows the information about a patient obtained by a physician prior to an operation to be confirmed with the handwritten signatures of the physician and the patient captured on the Tablet PC.
Before any medical procedure a patient must be informed in detail about the nature of the proposed procedure, the goals, the respective benefits and risks as well as the possible alternatives to the procedure. Since the early 80s so-called “patient consent forms” have been used for this purpose. Patient consent forms supply the physician with competent and timely information to give the patient about the proposed procedure before an operation. Typically the physician adds some individual notes about the intended procedure on the form. Subsequently, physician and patient sign the declaration of consent for the planned operation. Using properly executed and signed patient consent forms also documents the patient education process and the legality of the obtained consent.
proCompliance Verlag (www.procompliance.de) is the market leader in German-speaking countries for patient consent forms. The company’s current portfolio of available documents contains more than 1000 forms. These forms are revised and updated regularly by medical and legal experts, since treatment methodologies and the legal issues related to medicine change frequently. Patient consent forms are produced in a wide array of languages because German-speaking hospitals serve many patients who speak languages other than German. The forms are also sold in non-German speaking countries like France and the United States via subsidiaries. Since the logistics of maintaining an extensive portfolio of patient consent forms have become more complex for hospitals and physicians to handle, leading proCompliance to offer these forms electronically under the brand name PICS, an abbreviation for “Patient Information & Compliance Software”.
Since CeBIT 2005, PICS has become available for mobile usage as well: Tablet PC users may access these forms, annotate handwritten comments and sign the documents with their handwritten signatures.
The legal aspects of signature capturing on Tablet PCs using SignDoc have already been examined legally by Professor Dr. Thomas Hoeren of the Institute for Information-, Telecommunication- and Media Law (http://www.uni-muenster.de/Jura.itm/hoeren/en/) at the University of Muenster in Westphalia/Germany and Judge at the Higher Regional Court in Duesseldorf (http://www.olg-duesseldorf.nrw.de). The essence of his extensive expert opinion sees SignDoc as an “equivalent surrogate to the conventional signing on a paper document”, “which fulfills the formal aspects of the “written form” in an equivalent way”. In other words: Electronic Documents signed with SignDoc offer at least a similar level of security as signed paper documents. Additional modules for patient education – such as animations or videos – may be added as well.
The feedback on the presentations at CeBIT and at ITeG has been overwhelming. The CIOs of numerous hospitals were highly interested in using these digital forms on Tablet PC as soon as possible and discussions about pilots have begun. The first hospital to pilot this application is likely to be the co-operation partner Ingolstadt Hospital. The PICS system will be a perfect match to the hospital’s already existing solution for patient records and will help to further streamline their IT processes.
Patient consent forms on Tablet PCs signed with the handwritten signature will also be exhibited at “ehealthcare” (October 25-26, Notwil near Luzern/Switzerland, www.ehealthcare.ch) and at “Medica” (November 16-19, Duesseldorf/Germany, www.medica.de)
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