Is Your Credentialing Process Really Electronic?

Is Your Credentialing Process Really Electronic?

Jul 25, 2018
  • Author:
    Vicki Searcy
    Former VP, Consulting
    Vicki has managed several credentialing and privileging practices, led a national healthcare accreditation and compliance consulting practice, was a surveyor for the NCQA, and a former president of NAMSS.

I’m about ready to move into a new home. It has been about 15 years since I purchased my previous house – and the memories of all the forms to be completed, the same information asked over and over again, the duplicative signatures, etc., were not pleasant as I contemplated what I would need to do to get a loan approved. I thought that if there was ever an industry that needed to be automated, it was the mortgage industry. In any event, you can imagine how ecstatic I was when the lender told me at the start of my loan application that their processes were all electronic!

I received their email and instructions and was amazed to find out that yes, their processes are somewhat electronic – for them! For me, however, it was essentially the same process as it was 15 years ago, except that I needed a heavy-duty printer! The lender did email me instructions – and the forms. I, however, had to print the forms, complete them, sign (and date) them in multiple places (plus initial them in even more places), and then mail them back to the lender. How electronic is that?

As I fumed about this, I thought about providers in our healthcare organizations that are required to complete duplicative forms for credentialing and I thoroughly understand their frustration.

In my opinion, a credentialing (or a mortgage) process is electronic only if it is paperless for both the applicant and the recipient of the data. Your process is NOT electronic if you email an application to a provider who then must print the application, complete it, and get it back to your department. It is not electronic for you, either, because the data isn’t going to jump into your database. You will need to manually enter the data from the application into your database.

While I realize that there are occasionally some forms that must have a “wet signature” (an original signature written on a piece of paper) most of the time an electronic or digital signature is sufficient. Since the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) went into effect in 2000, digital and electronic signatures have held the same legal standing as wet signatures. Nevertheless, some organizations and individuals still prefer handwritten signatures.

My definition of electronic? Totally paperless. Applications and requests for clinical privileges are submitted electronically, data is electronically imported into your database, references and other verifications can be submitted and received electronically, and the decision-making process – all the way from a department chair to the Board – is handled without printing and sending out paper files.

Perhaps you are on a journey to becoming electronic and like many organizations, are in a transition period. Make sure you don’t claim to be electronic when you aren’t, as this will just be a source of irritation to providers when their expectations aren’t met.