What is Vendor Credentialing?
Anyone who is a healthcare industry representative (HCIR) is likely more than familiar with the concept of vendor credentialing. This is a requirement of most HCIRs who wish to have access to medical facilities in order to conduct their jobs. Vendor credentialing is a practice that's becoming more and more popular today as healthcare management systems look for ways to increase safety and security standards. For a vendor in the occupational health industry to be granted permission to enter a hospital to conduct a job, or an aspect of a job, they will need to have all necessary vendor credentialing required of the locations they plan to visit completed in advance. Vendor credentialing is a way that health management systems and hospitals try to ensure that clients and patients are safe and protected from any external threats to health and safety. Vendor credentialing entails:
While it's not a legal requirement to undergo vendor credentialing, it's a necessity for anyone working in the medical field since so many healthcare management systems are now requiring it. In 2013, approximately 86% of hospitals and clinics required HCIR credentialing before allowing them entry. While this percentage was fairly high five years ago, it's estimated to be much higher today as this requirement is growing. Companies that typically require vendor credentialing include:
Healthcare staffing companies equip hospitals and clinics with medical professionals such as nurses, x-ray technicians, physical therapists, etc. These companies require vendor credentialing so that in an event that a hospital needs a nurse right away, all the safety and security needed for a nurse to have access to the hospital and begin working with patients is already taken care of. Pharmaceutical companies oftentimes send sales reps to hospitals to speak with physicians about medications that may benefit their patients. It's important for these companies to use vendor credentialing to ensure that a rep will have access to the hospitals and clinics needed to visit in order to spread the word about a new medication. Medical instrument suppliers and their representatives also need to visit hospitals in order to share their devices and offer training to physicians and nurses. Oftentimes these representatives will join physicians in surgery if they’re providing training on how to use new equipment or technology, or if they are training a physician treating a patient with their technology, such as a medical implant that the hospital is unfamiliar with.
A History of the Growing Need for Vendor Credentialing
Vendor credentialing was born out of a growing need for enforced measures to oversee access to healthcare facilities and patient information during an age of rapid technological advancement. This requirement began with pharmaceutical companies in response to concerns surrounding the relationships between drug company reps and physicians. There was also a general consensus surrounding the security of hospitals, as many healthcare organizations did not have strict security standards. With HIPAA and OSHA medical surveillance laws being as they are, this needed to change. Digitization wasn't something that all hospitals had adopted either, and so it was imperative that those who were allowed to walk the halls of these facilities where patient records and information are accessible had been through appropriate screening procedures. Vendor credentialing has since grown to become a common requirement for any HCIR who wishes to gain access to a medical facility or hospital, and is a requirement for most hospitals today. Another reason for the growing necessity for vendor credentialing comes from the standards that are put in place for compliance by various governing healthcare organizations such as The Joint Commission, the American College of Surgeons (ACS), and the Association of Operating Room Nurses (AORN). In an effort to maintain a standard for quality of care, these organizations are placing increased pressures on medical staff to keep a close eye on vendors in an effort to reduce any vulnerabilities to the safety, security, and privacy of the patients they serve.
Today, vendor credentialing continues to rise for a number of reasons including:
Problems Facing Vendor Credentialing Today
While vendor credentialing is an important step in keeping the public and healthcare system safe, there are a variety of problems associated with this practice today. A major lack of standardization as it pertains to vendor credentialing is one of the biggest problems HCIRs and healthcare organizations face. What’s more is that each hospital and health clinic require a different set of credentials, and there is no set standard for these credentials. There is also no central database for hospitals and clinics to check a vendor’s credentials. In addition, the rates for credentialing are all over the board. A company could spend anywhere from under $300 to as much as $3,000 per employee on credentialing.
A lack of standardization as it pertains to vendor credentialing can cause a variety of issues for companies in the occupational health sector and hospitals alike. If a vendor attempts to visit a location that has a different set of vendor credentials than what the vendor has, this can cause delays. Obtaining the correct set of credentials could take anywhere from weeks to months, depending on the nature of the requirement. Other issues arise when hospitals admit patients who require emergency vendor visits. For example, say that a patient is taken to the ER in the middle of the night who has received a medical implant. Should this be something the doctors must address, but are unfamiliar with, they will need to contact a vendor from the medical device company and ask them to make an emergency visit to the hospital’s ER to train the physicians and staff on how to address the device. If the vendor’s credentials are not perfectly in line with the requirements of the hospital, the patient’s life or health could be compromised, and difficult decisions will have to be made. Is this a decision that could even be made on-the-spot if it means saving a life? This is likely unique to the policies and procedures of each individual healthcare management system.
There are also issues concerning privacy for the vendors who are credentialed. Since there is no central database for storing this information, it brings into question just exactly where this information is being stored, and how it is protected. Credentials contain sensitive personal information, and without a central depository for storing this information, vendors’ information is stored separately by each location visited. This can be anxiety producing for a vendor who visits several healthcare facilities, as there will always be questions surrounding how this information is handled, who has access to it, and if the information could be hacked. Not every hospital or clinic has the same security measures, so some locations may be more vulnerable to information hacking and data breaches than others—posing a variety of problems for HCIRs.
A Solution for Vendor Credentialing
The lack of standardization in vendor credentialing, paired with the varying requirements from one hospital to the next, and the variance of costs has led to a need for external vendor credentialing services that offer several vendor credentialing services at one location. This is the closest to standardization we can hope to have at this point in time. A reputable vendor credentialing company can serve as a one-stop shop for HCIRs. This helps companies prepare for the time and monetary costs credentialing demands, and it’s also makes storing and accessing information surrounding credentials much easier. Instead of visiting ten or more locations in order to receive each individual credential, a credentialing service can save a considerable amount of time and money for companies in the occupational health niche. The Consortium for Universal Healthcare Credentialing (C4UHC) has been gaining traction in establishing a standard for vendor credentialing protocol in response to this need for standardization. NMS is proudly a member and supports this consortium.
If you’d like to learn more about addressing your occupational health company’s vendor credentialing needs, we’d love to help serve you. Feel free to check out the one stop services we provide at National Medical Systems, Inc., and get started on streamlining your vendor credentialing processes today.