The Hilltop Institute at UMBC conducts health services research on behalf of government agencies, foundations, and nonprofit organizations at the national, state, and local level. For the state of Maryland, Hilltop maintains a secure, HIPAA-compliant data repository in order to conduct sophisticated analyses of people's experiences with health and social service systems. Any Protected Health Information in this repository must undergo rigorous physical, network, and process security measures, which can mean lots of paperwork for Hilltop staff.
For example, researchers must often obtain Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval and sign Data Use Agreements (DUA) in order to access this information. DUAs provide access to this sensitive data for the purpose indicated in the IRB and DUA for a specified period of time, making time a critical factor of completing these forms. Until every participating researcher signs the document, no one can access the data, which means they need to wait before they can start working. When twenty individuals need to sign the same document, this process can take quite a while.
A few years ago, a particularly urgent form was stalling and Hilltop needed a quick and easy solution. With the help of the Division of Information Technology (DoIT), Hilltop converted the paper document to an electronic form using the E-signature platform, DocuSign. This allowed them to send the form to every user via email so that they could sign with a digital signature and submit with just a few clicks. As a result, an ordeal that could have lasted hours or even days was over in a matter minutes.
"The HIPAA regulatory environment continues to evolve, making the responsibility of compliance monitoring ever more important. Tracking signatures digitally using DocuSign has helped Hilltop address those changes." That is why Hilltop Director of Grants, Contracts, and Administration Ki So is still actively working to adopt modern technology into other areas of her business. Despite the frustration that can come with frequent system upgrades, Ki is passionate about improving efficiency and productivity, especially when it eliminates the tedious busywork that normally clogs her schedule.
Using DocuSign templates, Ki has been testing approval forms required for all purchases, reimbursements, and expenses charged to grants and/or discretionary accounts, as well as forms required by UMBC’s Asset Management to oversee equipment inventory. Allowing her to control and guide a signer’s progress through a form with tooltips, field validations and conditions, and other useful tools, DocuSign templates can significantly reduce the time Ki and other Hilltop staff spend correcting and following up on errors or mistakes.
“Overall, Hilltop's goal is to build in efficiencies using DocuSign templates to replace our internal paper routed forms,” Ki explains. By eliminating paper processes, Hilltop is creating sensible efficiency while simultaneously reducing their impact on the environment.
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