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Does a Physician’s Electronic Signature Render a Report Inadmissible?

Does a Physician’s Electronic Signature Render a Report Inadmissible?

Are physicians permitted to use “electronic signatures” in complying with the Labor Code and California Regulations outlining the duties of treating doctors? This question seemed less relevant nearly a year ago, but the post-coronavirus world looks quite different. Labor Code Section 4628(j) is the law requiring a physician’s “signature”, and says:

The report shall contain a declaration by the physician signing the report, under penalty of perjury, stating:

“I declare under penalty of perjury that the information contained in this report and its attachments, if any, is true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief, except as to information that I have indicated I received from others. As to that information, I declare under penalty of perjury that the information accurately describes the information provided to me and, except as noted herein, that I believe it to be true.”

The foregoing declaration shall be dated and signed by the reporting physician and shall indicate the county wherein it was signed.

There is no Labor Code section or Regulation that defines “signature”, or that clarifies whether electronic signatures are permissible or not, but there are two WCAB cases that address the issue.

The first case is Channel Commercial Corp. v. WCAB (Love) (2007) 72 CCC 865. In this case the applicant argued that the doctor’s reports were inadmissible since they were electronically signed. The WCJ noted in her decision that the doctor had “in fact signed all of his submitted reports, either personally or electronically,” and that none of the reports violated the signature requirements of Labor Code § 4628. The second case is, Torres v. Auto Zone, (2013) Cal. Wrk. Comp. P.D. LEXIS 230. In this case, the Applicant attempted to argue that the primary treating physician’s reports were inadmissible based upon an assertion that the doctor did not sign the medical reports insofar as a “signature” does not include electronic signatures. The WCAB found that the doctor, “indicates his personal use of an electronic signature, there is no signature stamp or auto pen used. This procedure is used by the undersigned and is not deemed as contrary to Workers’ Compensation Laws. An electronic signature does not render treating doctor reports inadmissible.”

Thus, it appears that electronic signatures are permissible and that the WCAB has, in the past cleared these signatures as admissible. It seems highly unlikely that a modern day challenge to these same issues would trigger a change in the precedent given that modern times call for continued acceptance of a more virtual world.

 

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