By Sonali Zutshi
Every day, patients, staff, visitors and providers rely on the symbiotic relationship between healthcare organizations and vendors. Vendors play an essential role in the healthcare ecosystem, from providing supplies and maintenance to assisting in surgical procedures. Granting vendor access to the locations and people who need them most, in a timely manner, is crucial to maintaining operations and quality patient outcomes.
Vendor credentialing is the process by which healthcare organizations ensure that the vendors they work with have the appropriate credentialing requirements to access their facilities. This fundamental component of compliance, risk management, and healthcare governance establishes the necessary safeguards and decision support for a facility, specifically around access and contracting decisions. It is intended to minimize business risks for healthcare organizations and protect patients.
Information on vendor credentialing in healthcare frequently focuses on the benefit to healthcare organizations, but it also benefits vendors. Well-defined credentialing criteria lets vendors know exactly what standards they need to meet to work with a healthcare organization and it gives vendors a clearer idea of where they should focus their sales and marketing efforts.
Credentialing also helps vendors operate more efficiently, particularly when it comes to hiring new representatives. For example, if a vendor starts working with a new hospital that has strict expectations regarding safety training on bloodborne pathogens, the vendor can roll out company-wide training to remain in compliance with credentialing requirements. Searching for new employees is more effective when vendors have a clear picture of what training and/or certifications are required.
The pandemic put a spotlight on the importance of vendor credentialing and its role in ensuring the safety of staff, patients and providers. Vendors are accustomed to undergoing exclusion screenings and submitting healthcare information, among other requirements. However, there is no precedent for pandemic facility access screening. Facilities around the country are implementing stringent new requirements, including vaccine mandates, as the post-pandemic environment continues to evolve.
The Cost of Redundancy
The Consortium for Universal Healthcare Credentialing (C4UHC) estimates that duplicative requirements for medical sales representatives cost more than $1 billion per year— which adds to the overall cost of healthcare. Redundancies are the direct result of lack of vendor credentialing standardization. Each hospital has its own set of credentialing requirements for vendor access. One hospital may require background checks and drug screenings while another may not. And hospitals that do require similar screenings may require new screenings. Lack of standardization creates confusion and redundancy as vendor representatives must spend extra time submitting multiple background checks, drug screens, etc. Attempting to manage vendor credentials using antiquated tracking methods like spreadsheets and Word documents is a costly endeavor. MedReps estimates that $1.7 billion is added to the cost of healthcare each year by medical device companies transferring unnecessary vendor credentialing fees back into their products.
Creating an Advantage
A rapidly changing access landscape driven by COVID places additional strain on already overtaxed vendors and vendor representatives. Fortunately, there are steps companies can take to lessen the burden and, in doing so, create a competitive advantage. Breaking down credentialing silos with a central repository where vendors and representatives can store all their credentials is a logical place to start. A single source of truth streamlines processes, making it easy to verify that a vendor has been vetted so surprises are avoided.
For example, it’s common for representatives of medical technology companies to require quick access to a facility if a physician needs support using their product in an emergency. Difficulty securing access because of recurring credentialing issues puts a patient at risk and makes a vendor less desirable to work with. Reliability and dependability make a vendor more appealing. A central repository makes vendor activity easily accessible so that individual vendor representatives and teams can quickly assess compliance with a facility’s policies. Real-time data log reporting also satisfies auditing requirements of accreditation bodies.
Credentialing technology has come a long way in a short time. Mobile apps make it easy for compliant vendors to access check in, schedule appointments and manage their accounts, regardless of location. For even greater convenience, vendors can now easily and securely share their lab results directly to their vendor credentialing solution with a few clicks. The direct lab-to-platform experience creates a streamlined approach to fulfill vendor credentialing requirements, which accelerates the process of obtaining and reporting medical lab test results. As a result, healthcare vendors have faster, unobstructed and compliant access to customers—much to the benefit of healthcare organizations, patients and their own bottom line.
Sonali is the Product Manager for symplr’s credentialing solution, symplr Access. She is responsible for identifying unsolved market problems, using strategic approaches to build credentialing solutions that help healthcare operations work more efficiently.