Medical Documentation Signature Requirements
CMS provides signature requirements guidance via CMS Change Request (CR)9225, CR9332, CMS Internet Only Manual (IOM), Publication 100-08, Medicare Program Integrity Manual, Chapter 3, Section 18.104.22.168.
In order for a signature to be valid, the following criteria are used:
- Services that are provided/ordered must be authenticated by the author
- Signatures shall be handwritten or an electronic signature.
- Signatures are legible
- Rubber Stamps for signatures are allowed in accordance with the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 in the case of an author with a physical disability that can provide proof to a CMS contractor of his/her inability to sign their signature due to their disability. By affixing the rubber stamp, the provider is certifying that he/she has reviewed the document.
- Medical record entries completed by a scribe must be authenticated by the treating physician's/non-physician's (NPP's) signature and date.
To be in compliance with conditions of participation and receive accreditation, all signatures need to be dated and timed; however, Medical Review (MR) must be able to determine on which date the service was performed or ordered. If the entry immediately above or below the entry is dated, MR may reasonably assume the date of the entry in question. Specific signature requirements found in NCDs, LCDs or other CMS manuals supersede the instructions in CR9225.
Providers should not add late signatures to the medical record, other than those that result from the short delay that occurs during the transcription process. Providers should use the signature attestation process. Medicare does not accept retrospective orders.
If a clinical diagnostic test order does not require a signature, regulations state there must be medical documentation by the treating physician (e.g. a progress note) that he/she intended the clinical diagnostic test be performed. This must also be authenticated by the author via a handwritten or electronic signature.
Providers may submit a signature log or attestation to support the identity of the signer. Contractors will be looking for some indication in other documentation to support the identity of the signer.
A signature log is a typed listing of provider names followed by a handwritten signature. A signature log can be used to establish signature legibility as needed throughout the medical record documentation. MR encourages providers to include their professional credentials/titles as well on the signature log.
If your facility doesn't have a signature log currently in place, MR will accept all submitted signature logs regardless of the date they were created. While the creation of the log may be a time consuming process, the end result will be that claims with illegible signatures will be processed more quickly than those that do not have a signature log.
It is acceptable to attest your signature. CMS has provided a guide for a signature attestation in CR9225 and in the IOM, Publication 100-08, Medicare Program Integrity Manual, Chapter 3, Section 22.214.171.124. Noridian has adopted this guide and formatted it to this interactive Signature Attestation Statement form. The attestation must be signed and dated by the author of the medical record entry and contain sufficient information to identify the beneficiary.
Signature Log vs Attestation - Speed of Completion
The Additional Documentation Request (ADR) will request a signature log/attestation for claims selected for medical review. MR encourages all providers to carefully review all documentation that is submitted for an ADR to ensure that all orders and services are signed appropriately. Initial ADR submissions that include a signature log or attestation for claims with illegible signatures will expedite claim processing. When an attestation request is necessary, the time frame for Noridian to complete the review is changed to 45 days rather than 30 days.
Signature for Amendments, Corrections, and Delayed Entries
All services provided to beneficiaries are expected to be documented in the medical records at the time they are rendered. Occasionally certain entries are not properly documented and will need to be amended, corrected, or entered after rendering the service. Health record documents submitted containing amendments, corrections, or addenda must clearly and permanently be identified as such, clearly indicate the date and author of the entry, and clearly identify all original content without deletion. When correcting a paper medical record, amendments or delayed entries may be initialed and dated if the medical record contains evidence associating the provider's initials with his/her name. When correcting electronic health records, entries must provide a reliable means to identify the original content, the modified content, and the date and authorship of each modification of the record.
To reduce the amount of documentation overload, many physicians are looking to Medical Scribe services.
Per CMS Change Request (CR)10076, Scribes are not providers of items or services. When a scribe is used by a provider in documenting medical record entries (e.g. progress notes), CMS does not require the scribe to sign/date the documentation. The treating physician's/non-physician practitioner's (NPP's) signature on a note indicates that the physician/NPP affirms the note adequately documents the care provided. Reviewers are only required to look for the signature (and date) of the treating physician/non-physician practitioner on the note. Reviewers shall not deny claims for items or services because a scribe has not signed/dated a note.
Questions Regarding the Signature Requirements
Questions may be directed to the Provider Contact Center. If your facility is currently under medical review, contact the Medical Review Examiner assigned to your file.
The guidelines below will assist in determining whether the signature requirements have been met.
Acceptable Electronic Signatures (Examples; Not Limited To)
- Chart 'Accepted By' with provider's name
- 'Electronically signed by' with provider's name
- 'Verified by' with provider's name
- 'Reviewed by' with provider's name
- 'Released by' with provider's name
- 'Signed by' with provider's name
- 'Signed before import by' with provider's name
- 'Signed: John Smith, M.D.' with provider's name
- Digitalized signature: Handwritten and scanned into the computer
- 'This is an electronically verified report by John Smith, M.D.'
- 'Authenticated by John Smith, M.D.'
Note: 'Signed but not read' is not acceptable
- CMS IOM, Publication 100-08, Medicare Program Integrity Manual, Chapter 3, Section 126.96.36.199
- CMS Medicare Learning Network (MLN) Matters (MM)6698
Last Updated Jul 27, 2018