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Practice dilemma: Is electronic consent for an insurance report valid?

We have had a request for an insurance report on a patient. There is no signed patient consent, instead the insurance company has stated that consent has been captured electronically. Is this valid?

Dr Rachel Birch, medicolegal adviser at Medical Protection, advises:

This is becoming more commonplace with insurance companies and the Information Commissioner's Office has produced guidance. There is no legal requirement for there to be a 'wet ink signature' on a subject access request form and electronic signatures are permitted.

However, practices must still be satisfied that the patient has provided appropriate and fully informed consent and is clear about the extent and scope of the disclosure.

Practices should also check that the insurance company has sufficient procedures in place to ensure that patient consent is being captured adequately and securely. Many insurance companies will enclose details of this with the request, but if in doubt, practices should consider asking to see evidence of this.

If there are any doubts, practices can still ask insurance companies to provide evidence of consent from the patient. However, it may be preferable to contact the patient directly to seek consent for the report. This can also be a good opportunity to double check matters, especially if there is potentially sensitive information within the patient’s medical record.

  • A version of this dilemma will be published in the March edition of Medical Protection’s Practice Matters.

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