Adobe EchoSign Enables Digital Health Care Signatures

Health insurers such as Aetna, Cigna and UnitedHealthcare are using Adobe EchoSign to enable doctors to sign contracts digitally.

Adobe is working with doctors and insurers to bring about a paperless contract-signing process through the company's EchoSign Web application. To make contract signing less cumbersome, EchoSign enables digital signatures for doctors signing contracts with health insurance companies.

EchoSign allows insurers and physicians to automate the contract-signing process, and physicians can sign digitally on an Apple iPad, iPhone, Google Android device or a standard PC. All parties then receive the digitally signed document.

"Thousands and thousands of physicians need to be signed up on to their provider networks and managed through new contract relationships every month," Jason Lemkin, vice president of Web business services at Adobe, told eWEEK. "It's a huge task."

Insurance companies are leading health care to digital signatures, according to Lemkin.

"Pretty much everyone in this segment of health care is moving to Web signatures, and they'll never go back," Lemkin said. "In a couple of years, nobody will be using paper."

The health care industry is hitting a "big inflection point" as far as digital contracts, Lemkin noted. "We do everything else on the Web. Why can't we do our contracts on the Web?" he said.

In addition to signing contracts digitally, health insurers value the e-signature technology for the ability to close deals with doctors quickly.

"Electronic signatures aren't about putting an image of a signature into a document," Lemkin wrote in a blog post. "They're about closing deals on the Web, in as close to real time as practical."

Before using EchoSign, contract processing time for Aetna took three weeks. It now takes a day on average, the insurer reports.

Although EchoSign will become fully integrated into Adobe Reader later this year, customers can also use EchoSign as a stand-alone product, Lemkin noted.

Since every Windows PC and Android device has Adobe Reader installed on it, the integration of EchoSign with the PDF application should bring mainstream use for EchoSign, Lemkin predicted.

EchoSign allows insurers to send mass mailings of contracts to doctors through email. Doctors can sign using their finger on an iPad or an input device such a mouse connected to a PC.

With physicians adopting tablets and smartphones in large numbers, 20 percent of all EchoSign users sign documents on mobile devices, Lemkin said.

Aetna launched its use of EchoSign on March 2, 2010, and Cigna announced its EchoSign contract-signing process on April 20 of this year.

By implementing EchoSign, Cigna hopes to make the contract-signing process quicker and easier for doctors, the insurer reports. UnitedHealthcare is also using the service.

"When we started EchoSign we were doing a hundred contracts a month; now we're doing over a million," Lemkin said.

"Paperless contracts for health care and for health care insurance and physician networks have pretty much entered the mainstream phases," Lemkin said.

Using EchoSign, doctors can sign contracts through a secure Website and maintain an audit trail and visibility for documents.

In addition, EchoSign protects both the sender and the signer with key authentication and privacy, fraud protection, and consumer disclosure, according to Aetna.

On Sept. 8, Adobe announced support for EchoSign in more than 20 languages.