It has become a “best practice” to move to electronic (or paperless) credentialing and privileging. When the idea of paperless credentialing was first introduced, many leaders of medical staff offices (MSPs) did not believe that paperless credentialing would be achieved during their careers.
Now, however, the majority of organizations that I’m working with are moving as rapidly as they can in that direction –many times at the request of the medical staff leaders involved in credentialing who are tired of wading through paper and being required to have a paper file delivered for evaluation or having to go to the medical staff office to review a file. MSPs are also finding that providers who have recently completed training programs are appalled if they must complete paper applications rather than online applications.
What steps does an organization take in order to achieve electronic credentialing and privileging? First, someone has to have the vision for moving to a paperless process. Secondly, solutions must be selected that supports the intended method of electronic processing. A well thought out implementation plan is critical.
Benefits of Electronic Credentialing
The first thing that must occur in the planning process is to determine the outcome that your organization wants to achieve. Organizations that move to electronic credentialing typically have some or all of the following goals:
- Faster credentialing -increase speed of transmission of information and turn-around of work products (decrease the amount of time it takes to “process” applications and make decisions).
- Decrease the volume of paper that everyone must submit, complete, handle, file, copy and shred.
- Improve logistics with regard to dissemination of information (i.e., an online application can be immediately available to an applicant –a mailed paper application won’t be available for several days).
- More efficient and less labor-intensive credentialing (credentialing staff can assume new responsibilities such as FPPE, designing criteria-based privileges, etc.)
- Require that applications be submitted complete –design online applications that cannot be submitted until every question is answered and every box is checked.
- Improve the ability to have documentation of what information was used to make a credentialing decision on a specific date.
- Use less office space by the elimination of filing cabinets, etc.
Considerations Before Implementation of Electronic Credentialing
Some additional information that should be considered during the planning phase includes:
- Will our current credentialing and privileging software be able to support the type of electronic credentialing that we envision in our organization?
- If we scan documents into our credentialing software, will those documents be easily accessible? Will we have to remember what we “named” each scanned document in order to retrieve it?
- Archiving ability
- How long will it take us to get from where we are now to a totally electronic process? What type of information systems support will be needed?
- How will we make the transition from our paper files to electronic files (it is never too early to think about the transition process). Will we shred our current files? Would it be practical to put them in storage?
- How willing are we –as an organization –to change the way we do things?
Electronic credentialing and privileging is not something that is implemented overnight –so if you haven’t started moving in this direction, do some research and make sure that your organization has a strategy in place to achieve this best practice. The rewards are well worth the effort.