Life Amid COVID: Capitalizing on the Benefits of Virtual Surveys

Life Amid COVID: Capitalizing on the Benefits of Virtual Surveys

Jun 21, 2022
  • Author:
    Pamela Butler, CPCS
    Director, VerityStream CVO

The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) has the most widely used and respected CVO standards for verification operations in the industry. As the recognized benchmark of CVO excellence, NCQA conducts a survey of our CVO every two years ensuring we have an effective and diligent verification process. Our CVO has been through 12 CVO certification surveys and passed every time. When we pass, we get certified! Certification status brings the CVO a level of recognition that says we have some of the best practices in place when it comes to verifications.

What is the NCQA CVO Certification Survey?

There are two parts to the NCQA CVO certification survey. The offsite review of submitted documentation happens first. There are standards, timelines and deadlines to meet. The documentation is submitted through NCQA’s web-based survey platform called the IRT (Interactive Review Tool). Our documentation must comply and support the CVO standards being reviewed. NCQA evaluates the submitted information, either pings us for an improvement opportunity or clears up any questions. The survey process gets moved along to the second phase, the file audit and onsite portion of the survey.

On audit day two survey elements are looked at by NCQA. They confirm that the CVO protects credentialing information, and we are obtaining and processing verifications in accordance with NCQA’s CVO standards.

Pre-COVID Surveys

Before there were virtual platforms, a typical audit day started early, ended late, and took up an entire day leaving everyone exhausted. Audit day involved planning for the surveyor to come to the CVO which also meant transportation and hotel stays that we paid for. Before the surveyor arrived, there was a planned lock down of the entire floor where CVO operations took place. Only CVO employees had permissions to enter and leave the area. There was a visual inspection of how our credentialing files are secured, who is allowed access to file and computer rooms, which shredding bins are available, and observation of CVO operations and building security. File audits meant that a designated staff sat with the surveyor and navigated through 75 files in the software.

Fast forward to Life Amid COVID

In April 2022, we completed our second survey using a virtual platform. In 2020 we were the first CVO to pave the way for both the onsite and file audit virtual experience. To demonstrate compliance with protecting credentialing information, the CVO face-timed the surveyor for the visual inspection of CVO operations. In the April 2022 survey, NCQA was confident that our CVO operations and building security was in place and only required an affirmation statement.

Virtual platforms have evolved and are of a much better quality than two years ago, in part thanks to Microsoft Teams and Zoom who continuously perfect their platforms. The CVO used both during the recent survey event. Through MS Teams, the NCQA surveyor, Michael Sousa, Vicki Searcy, myself and our two credentialing specialists were able to start our introductory meeting without a bump. The cameras were turned on and we chatted just like we were gathered around a table in years gone by. This virtual introductory meeting allowed for effective networking, use of time and definitely saved on the costs associated with travel.

75 files were shared with the surveyor and tag teamed by the credentialing specialists. They alternated and virtually shared a pdf file packet and its verification information with the surveyor. The virtual platform made it possible for the surveyor to ask questions and receive instant feedback which was crucial to moving the file auditing process along quickly, plus, the surveyor interacted directly to get answers fast to any question asked. Through the platform, the surveyor viewed the obtained verifications, but she quickly zoomed in on the Verification Profile Summary included with each CVO file. She loved the fact that, at a glance, she could view dates, time frames and relevant information. The file auditing started at 8:00 am and was completed by noon! A record time. We wrapped the day with the preliminary survey summary meeting at 1:00 pm. No errors or omissions were found and concluded the entire survey process only to wait for NCQA’s Review Oversight Committee (ROC) to review all CVO submitted information. The ROC reviews preliminary results and all other relevant information and is makes the final determination for Certification.

What We Have Learned From Virtual Surveys

Six years ago, I might have declared that virtual surveys are not as personal as an onsite survey. Frankly, virtual surveys can be made personal when the platform is interactive, and the users know how to operate it. I highly recommend testing before using.

We have determined that virtual events are efficient and save both time and money. They can be done securely from just about anywhere, without the expense of travel and lodging and considering the rise in gas prices there is a big savings. We only have 24 hours in a day, and it seems like there is the constant addition of more work to get done. We are at a crucial point in our high-tech lives and using a virtual platform for the NCQA CVO survey is a logical next step for everyone.

Now that the CVO’s NCQA survey is done and if you were to ask me “how did the NCQA survey go?” I would immediately say it was easy, smooth and a piece of cake. Again, we conquered the NCQA CVO survey. As the Director of the CVO for six years, this was my fourth survey, and it was a virtual success.