Keeping Pace with the Emergency Department: The Value of Electronic Informed Consent

By Robin McKee, director Clinical Solutions, FormFast; part of the HIMSS Interoperability Showcase™ initiative

HIMSS Interoperability Showcase

The HIMSS Interoperability Showcase, part of the HIMSS Global Conference & Exhibition, demonstrates interoperability – the ability for different technology systems to communicate – in real-time with actual products in the marketplace. The following guest post shares the impact seamless data exchange can have on patients, providers and caregivers.

Advances in healthcare technology allow clinicians and nurses to track data in real time, promote communication among care teams, and speed the delivery of care. Nowhere is this more important than in the emergency department (ED).

When workflows in the ED are efficient, they improve staff operations, patient flow and drive patient satisfaction and safety. When they are not efficient, the results can have a direct, negative impact on the quality of care.

As we are amid an opioid epidemic, behavioral health emergency department visits continue to reach all-time highs. Providers across the U.S. are searching for new ways to streamline the process of efficiently providing the right service to these patients in a timely and cost-effective manner.

According to Becker's Hospital Review, Til Jolly, MD, CMO of SOC Telemed, on average, one in every eight ED patients has a mental or substance abuse disorder. These patients often spend hours waiting for a psychiatric evaluation in the ED, which can limit throughput, increase boarding costs and cause missed revenue opportunities from other emergent patients due to bed capacity constraints. Waiting costs can top over $2,000 per mental health patient, and reimbursement is also much less for mental health.

Tackling this issue head on, many organizations have tapped into the power of telehealth. As a result, many EDs are equipping their treatment rooms with cameras, monitors and high-speed internet to enable remote consultation with specialists located across the globe to help manage the growing need for telepsychiatry abilities in the ED.

Healthcare systems are looking for new ways to further the adoption and success of telehealth in this area by leveraging technologies that support their goal of increasing the speed and efficiency of getting patient consults started, launching their telehealth visit, and providing the patient with appropriate care.

Informed Consent’s Paper Problem – Delays, Costs and Risks

In order to launch telehealth sessions in the ED, an informed consent form, such as the one that is required when receiving medical care, is generally required.

From the bedside, to the video conferencing screen and even from the patient’s home computer, informed consent’s vital role in healthcare remains the same. And, when this process of capturing informed consent falls short, it opens a door of legal risks, compliance, delays in care, additional costs, patient safety risks and operational issues.

In a world where technology advances in healthcare include remarkable breakthroughs such as telehealth, artificial intelligence and data analytics, just to name a few, it is surprising to discover one of the most important processes in healthcare: the informed consent – has yet to capitalize on existing technology.

In fact, three quarters of organizations still use paper forms to document the critical process of informed consent vs. leveraging electronic signature technology.

The inefficiencies inherent to paper-based consent form processes can result in missing or improperly scanned forms. According to The Joint Commission, more than 500 organizations recently experienced compliance issues due to missing informed consent forms. As government and industry organizations demand the informed consent process meets the necessary requirements for truly informing the patient about their care plans and anticipated procedures, healthcare organizations are seeking a better way to improve the critical process across the care continuum, leading to initiatives like the ONC’s eConsent Trial Project.

eConsent: A New Standard for Modern Healthcare

While consent is more than a signature, the way the consent is documented on a form is extremely important. Failure to obtain informed consent is one of the top 10 reasons why medical malpractice claims are filed against hospitals.

Electronic informed consent technology exists today that allows you to replace paper forms with electronic forms (eForms) that offer many benefits to both patients and staff.

eConsent technology leverages health IT standards and specifications developed by organizations like HL7 and IHE to integrate with your electronic health record to present the correct documentation for patient signatures on mobile devices – streamlining the consent process.

  • Leveraging patient wristband scanning technology, the right documents for the right patient are generated in seconds.
  • Upon completion, forms are instantly added to the electronic health record (EHR), eliminating the need to manually archive the documents.
  • Staff can then quickly self-sign the form and date-time stamps are automatically applied.
  • Upon the submission of the consent form, it is archived into the EHR – preventing lost information and making documentation instantly visible to the care team.

The opportunity for immediate archival and visibility of the consent in the EHR is important, specifically in the case of the ED – where time is of the essence and care team members can be dispersed.

Bringing Informed Consent into the Age of Telehealth

As health systems turn to emerging technologies, such as telehealth – it is time for the pervasive process of informed consent to keep pace. Organizations are recognizing that mobile signature technology is an important comportment to facilitating the telehealth process. This is especially true in the ED, where each second counts.

As the industry turns to telehealth to address some of the biggest concerns in the behavioral health space, and beyond – eConsent will play a key role in unlocking the full potential telehealth brings to lowering costs, improving specialized care access and speeding the delivery of quality care.

Sponsored content. The views and opinions expressed in this blog or by commenters are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HIMSS or its affiliates.


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