Credentialing in a Crisis - Business Continuation in the Time of COVID-19 (Part 2)

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

By Joe Morris, Writer, HealthStream

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic meant sudden, dramatic change throughout the world of healthcare. From properly equipping personnel for front-line patient care to conducting back-office business in a virtual setting, every day brought new challenges.

That has certainly been true in credentialing and privileging arena, where virtual processes have met the need, and relaxed governmental regulations have also allowed for workarounds in emergency situations, says Angela Beardsley, BSBS-IT, CPMSM, CPCS, Consultant, Consulting Services at VerityStream. Here are some suggestions for improving your credentialing under current circumstances.

Create Workstreams to Smooth Advanced-Review Process

Advanced review of the credential’s file is another critical component to the success of a virtual credentials committee meeting. Preparation for credentials meetings can be done at a time more convenient for the physicians, as file review can be completed electronically, at their own pace in advance of a scheduled meeting.

“You can assign files to specific committee members in advance of the meeting,” notes Kurtz. “If you do that, make sure that you communicate the expectation for the reviewer to speak to their assessment of the file during the meeting. Alternatively, you can allow all community members to have access to review the files. If all are reviewing the files this may look more like an opportunity to bring up any concerns.”

Some file-distribution options for the credentialing packet include:

  • Credentialing solution: Does it have the functionality to support confidential and secure virtual review and approvals?
  • Committee/Board management applications: These allow for securing confidential distribution of meeting materials and packets for review and approval.
  • PDF Routing: Convert review documents to PDF binder and distribute that via secure email, or secure shared folder or site.

It’ll also be key to make sure reviewers have proper device access and training so that they can view and engage with the materials.

Virtual Committee Meetings Complete the Process

All the above activity sets the stage for virtual committee meetings. There are several routes to go when setting these up:

  • Consent agenda meeting: no physical meeting occurs, and the meeting is opened for a defined time period for committee members to review, comment, and make their recommendations.
  • Audio-only meeting: Participants are connected via a phone system and not required to have a computer or any other electronic device.
  • Web meeting: Participants are connected via a web meeting tool or application such as WebEx, GoToMeetings, Skype, Zoom or Microsoft Teams. A web meeting requires a computer or other electronic device such as a tablet or smartphone, with a secure and optimal internet connection.
  • Web meeting with video: Same as above, with a video component.

“Once you've determined which type of virtual meeting is best for you, then the next step in preparing for a virtual committee meeting is to set expectations ahead of the meeting,” Beardsley says.

  • Can some people can be in a conference room while others are remotely connected, or is everyone connecting remotely?
  • Does just joining the meeting count as being present or do you have to actually be an active participant during the meeting to be considered present?
  • Will participants need to be able to focus on shared documents or be on video for discussion?

Ensure ahead of time that all participants will be adhering to confidentiality expectations.

Be prepared:

  • Establish and distribute the agenda in advance
  • Know the technology in advance
  • Test the phone connection with one of the participants to ensure the quality
  • Test the web meeting to ensure understanding of transitions and options
  • Login early to open and establish the connection of the electronic tool or application being used
  • Have a plan to reduce side conversations and to ensure all participants have an opportunity to speak and be heard

There are many other issues to consider, such as getting signatures, and there are virtual and electronic options available for those. As with the above, the key is to be prepared so that all activities around credentialing can be conducted as swiftly and efficiently in a remote setting as they would be in a live one.

Consider this an opportunity to convert the usual daily process from paper to electronic. If not using credentialing software solution that's electronic, this is a good time to explore those options. And start considering any policies or bylaws that need to be revised to allow for the full electronic process from start to finish.

Learn more about how VerityStream provides Credentialing, Privileging, Enrollment, and Evaluation for Health Systems and Health Plans.