In the days before the Internet, people had to be physically present to sign documents. The document creator would have to mail or fax it over, then the recipient would need to sign it and send it back before it could be considered an officially binding document. These days, all that has changed.
Most people have at least some experiences with using digital signatures, even if they don’t know it. Many companies use iPads instead of paper documents to collect signatures in-person, for example.
What many people don’t realize is that this experience is very similar to adding a digital signature to a document sent via the Internet. They often feel concerned about issues like privacy and security when there’s no need for it. People who aren’t yet used to digital signatures and eSigning documents can read on to find answers to some frequently asked questions that could clarify some confusing aspects of signing documents online and assuage any lingering fears.
Are Digital Signatures Secure?
Some eSignature collection services are even HIPAA compliant, meaning they can be used in healthcare facilities and associated businesses that need to go above and beyond to protect sensitive patient data. HIPAA compliant digital signature services must follow HIPAA’s privacy, security, and data breach rules. These regulations were designed specifically to ensure patients’ data privacy when information is being transmitted online, by phone, or in person, so anyone who relies on a HIPAA-compliant service provider can rest easy knowing their information will be protected.
Are There Documents That Can’t Be Signed Digitally?
While digital signatures have grown in popularity in recent years, especially since the start of the pandemic, there are still some types of documents that can’t be signed using digital signatures. Land registry documents, lasting powers of attorney, and last wills and testaments usually need to be signed in person, for example. It all depends on local regulations, though, so the best way to find out if a document can be eSigned is to contact the person who has sent it to find out if it must be notarized or signed in person.
What Are the Most Common eSignature Methods?
The most basic way to sign a document digitally is to put a signature on a piece of paper, upload a picture of it, and send that picture through email. Unfortunately, this type of eSigning process is not very secure since it relies on conventional emails, which are known to be prone to data breaches. Even the signer’s identity cannot be adequately protected using this now somewhat antiquated method of eSigning.
These days, the most common method for eSigning documents is to use a specialized digital signature collector that can guarantee the integrity of the document. There will be no way for anyone involved to edit the document post-signing, and if anyone tries, it will render the digital signature invalid.
For sensitive documents, most companies require users to authenticate their digital signatures. They may be able to do so by logging into a client portal or by using two-factor authentication to validate their identities. That way, there’s no way for unauthorized parties to gain access to the document.
How Are Signatures Verified?
When companies allow clients or patients to sign documents digitally using an eSigning service, they provide the person with a unique link. When the user clicks the link, he or she will open up a browser-based signing session and create a unique digital signature. The link itself can be sent via a client portal, secure email, or even a text message depending on what type of document is being signed.
Do All Parties Need to Sign Documents Digitally?
There’s no strict requirement that everyone involved in signing a digital document do so using an eSignature, but choosing to keep everything electronic does make it much easier to manage the signing process. It’s important to note here that not all companies can rely exclusively on eSigning, as eSigned documents lose legal value when the signature is stored digitally. The same issue can come up with more basic forms of eSigning, such as uploading a wet-ink signature and applying it to the document.
It’s possible that rules and regulations governing legal signatures will change as more people and companies adopt digital alternatives. For now, though, assume that documents that require a notarized signature will need to be signed in person.
Has the Pandemic Changed the World of Digital Document Signing?
Just like the COVID pandemic drove many people to start using telehealth services and other online alternatives to receiving in-person care, it also encouraged a lot of companies and individuals to start using eSigning instead of requiring people to come into the office. The switch to remote work, in particular, made digital signing something of a new status quo, and that looks unlikely to change anytime soon.
Both office workers and clients or customers love using digital signatures. Digital signatures don’t require them to jeopardize their health or safety by being in the same room as others when they sign documents. Instead, they can take care of most common business, and even healthcare, matters from the comfort and safety of their own homes.
Embrace the Future In many ways, the future of official and peer-to-peer communication is already here, and it’s happening online. It’s understandable that some people who are used to doing everything in person by hand are having a hard time making the switch, but it’s worth getting used to this new normal now. Digital signatures are just as secure as signing documents in person as long as users rely on a reputable eSigning service provider, and they’re far more convenient. Why not embrace the future of document signing now?