CredentialsOnLine (COL) is an NCQA-certified Credentials Verification Organization which serves organizations’ needs through primary source verification and ongoing monitoring. COL uses industry-leading technology to improve efficiency, accelerate the credentialing process and reduce costs - all while ensuring quality and accuracy. CredentialsOnLine, established in 1998, is a division of HealthStream, Inc. COL has been fully certified by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) since 2000. CredentialsOnLine has credentialed more than 150,000 providers and completed over 1.5 million electronic primary source verifications. COL uses EchoCredentialing, a leading software solution for credentialing and provider data management.
CredentialsOnLine performs primary source verification for over 25 different types of providers and organizations. The services provided are based on the client’s unique needs and specific requirements. Provider verifications performed by the CVO can include information such as Hospital Affiliations, Education, Malpractice Insurance, National Practitioner Databank, OIG, Professional References and more. Professional reference verifications can be one of the most time-consuming verification elements for CredentialsOnLine to complete for several reasons:
- Reference verifications require human consideration of the applicant’s skills and knowledge. The questions included on reference verifications often include a sliding scale with the ability to enter narratives and comments regarding the applicant.
- Many times the reference information on applications does not include email contact information, which would enable faster electronic communication.
- Individuals asked to serve as references are often busy and do not have time to complete written paper verification within a short time frame.
- Reference requests often require multiple reminders before information is completed; another factor which slows the process.
Once a reference has completed the verification, the information is often faxed or mailed back to COL. The received information is then scanned and linked into the system for electronic storage. This enables the COL to electronically provide a comprehensive provider packet to the client. CredentialsOnLine’s process was to send as many reference verifications as possible through fax, to shorten response times. In fact, the average turn around to receive a response from a faxed verification was 12 days, compared to an average of 16 days for verifications sent by mail. While most of CredentialsOnLine’s other verifications such as licensure were received faster because they could be completed electronically through Websites or Web Crawlers, they struggled to identify ways to reduce credentialing verification time. COL investigated adding more reminder notifications, connecting with references by phone, and reducing the time between reminders. They even accelerated the schedule for reminder notifications. However, the effort resulted in complaints from clients who felt like they were being unduly pressed for information.
Finally, CredentialsOnLine worked with their software vendor Echo, to explore technologies that could shorten reference turnaround times. Echo developed an electronic solution, which would enable references to complete the verification through a secure Web portal, after receiving an email notification of the verification request. In order to implement this solution, COL had to make several modifications to their processes:
- They needed to work with their clients to ensure email addresses were received for the references. This meant modifying the credentialing application to add the email address to the reference section.
- They modified their verification process to incorporate email for the reference verification, and they encouraged the option for the reference to complete the verification through a Web portal.
- They reformatted their client provider packets to include electronically completed reference verification.
They developed a Website for reference verification completion using IT resources and the support of the vendor. COL designed the reference verification site to align with the look and feel of their primary Website.
Modifying the verification process to incorporate email and a link to complete the verification on-line was tested, using both internal surrogate providers and actual client providers who agreed to participate in the pilot. This process helped to ensure a smooth production roll-out to all applicants. In addition, COLs dedicated system analyst modified the client packet to incorporate the electronic reference verifications in the results. After a period of testing and refinement, the electronic verification process was ready to roll-out to all applicants.
CredentialsOnLine’s automation of Reference Verification has resulted in significant, positive and sometimes unexpected outcomes:
- The response rate for reference verifications improved from an average of 12 days to an average of 2 days - an 87% improvement in turnaround time! Rather than the incremental improvement the COL team expected, these results were exponential - a fantastic surprise.
- CredentialsOnLine clients were more satisfied! The improved turnaround time for verification requests meant less follow-up required by the COL clients who previously had to contact the applicant for additional follow up.
- Reference verifications were more complete. The electronic survey tool in Echo includes required fields – which means the reference cannot skip the completion of critical data elements. As a result the CVO did not need to follow-up with the reference as often to fill in missing information; and the client was contacted less often. The ultimate result is a faster process and a happier client.
CredentialsOnLine, is always looking at ways to automate, streamline and be more efficient with their processes. They identified one of their bottlenecks was the reference verification process. Using Echo to automate the reference verification process enabled them to transform a weakness into a strength. Technology is always evolving and software is regularly enhanced as new ways of doing the same thing may be available. COL was able to partner with technology to significantly improve a process bottleneck with the added benefit of improving client satisfaction and services.