Effectively Obtaining a Signature in the Field

We Get It

As EMS providers, we understand that one of the least favorite things you do in the field is to obtain a patient’s signature.

Effectively Obtaining a Signature in the Field

From the standpoint of an EMS field provider it often seems like an unnecessary requirement, a burden even. But, to your ambulance billing office this is a huge must and we’re sure that they have communicated that fact to you over and.

All in the Presentation

Convincing a person who is ill or injured that providing his/her signature on an authorization form or electronic tablet is important sometimes takes some finesse. Like anything in our job, saying the right thing at the right time can make all the difference in the world.

Most of the time how you speak to your patient or the patient’s family/significant others means more than what you say.

For example, if you simply plop the signature form in front of your patient and shove a pen into his/her hand while mumbling something like; “Here, sign this because I have to do it”; we’re convinced that your success rate in obtaining a patient signature is probably not very good.

However, kindly and gently requesting the patient or his/her representative to please provide their signature complete with an explanation about why you must obtain it (if asked), not only puts the patient at ease but helps him/her understand why it’s a necessary step in your process.

It’s simple, just say something like; “Ma’am, may I please obtain your signature on this form in order that our billing office can collect payment for our services from your insurance? Also, you are signing to verify that I have presented you with one of our agency’s HIPAA privacy notices which is required by law.”

Look at it as an opportunity to connect with your patient in a non-threatening, non-stressful way. And…be sure to thank your patient for his/her cooperation.

Know the Form

If your patient asks you a question about the form you are asking him/her to sign, can you provide a basic answer?

Know the form!

Most signature forms are comprised of some basic language. It typically captures the patient’s consent to send a bill to his/her insurance payer, provides some permissions- most notably the permission to appeal a claim denial down the road, extends permission to the your EMS agency to bill the patient for any unpaid portion and in many cases provides verification in writing that the patient has received your EMS agency’s HIPAA Notice of Privacy Practice (NPP). The form also is the ultimate verification that you and your EMS agency actually did provide patient care and transport (when the run ends in a transport scenario, of course.)

But, if you have never read the form how will you know all of this? Take a few minutes soon to read it over.

Know the “Rules”

For your own useful purpose, be sure to educate yourself on the “rules” regarding obtaining authorization signatures in the field. Below we’ll help you attain that goal.

  • A signature is required to bill Medicare!
    • Your billing office cannot bill a claim to Medicare without either a patient’s or a patient representative’s signature.
  • You must present a HIPAA NPP to each patient and his/her signature is proof that you did so (if your agency includes HIPAA language incorporated into one signature vehicle.)
  • If the patient himself/herself is unable to sign, most widely circulated signature templates/forms provide sections and language where you can obtain…
    • A signature from someone other than the patient if such a person is available
    • A signature from you and a facility representative attesting to the inability of the patient to sign either due to mental or physical limitations.
  • If the patient’s signature is not legible, asking a patient to print his/her name is very important.

Ask Questions…

Don’t hesitate to ask questions. Your agency’s administrators, supervisory staff and especially the billing office can answer many of your questions about the signature form.

The time to ask is before the run.

Help your agency’s front office out by providing feedback regarding patient complaints and concerns that you learn when presenting the form in the field. They won’t know what you are encountering out there unless you educate them.

We’re here to help! Current clients can forward questions about patient signature issues to your knowledgeable Client Services representative.

If you’re reading this and your agency doesn’t currently use our billing services, maybe it’s time to check out how the many features we offer can benefit your agency. We provide education on signature issues and other billing-related topics of interest to the EMS industry, regularly.

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