The COVID-19 pandemic has hit every part of the healthcare industry. Medical staff offices are no exception, from the struggle to credential providers from outside an organization to privileging for telehealth and making it possible for staff to be able to work remotely.
A pandemic era survey about healthcare credentialing
From December 2020 to January 2021, VerityStream surveyed medical staff office professionals as part of its fifth annual credentialing report, which incorporates a section on the impact of COVID-19 on credentialing offices and departments across the U.S.
Long-lasting pandemic-related change is likely for credentialing departments and medical staff offices. Organizations that had adopted electronic credentialing processing quickly transitioned to remote work. The need for credentialing to be totally electronic became critical; many VerityStream clients asked for assistance with implementing online applications, electronic decision-making processes, etc. to facilitate the work of credentialing and help their medical staff organizations avoid delays. A clear lesson from the pandemic is the value of efficient electronic credentialing.
Telehealth an important focus for credentialing and privileging
More than half (51.6%) of all respondents said their organization’s use of telehealth services increased significantly since the beginning of the pandemic. Approximately a quarter (27.8%) said their organization’s use increased somewhat and one-fifth (20.3%) said it stayed about the same. Only 0.3% said their use of telehealth services decreased.
Reflecting on the challenges of privileging telehealth providers, medical services professionals reported varying degrees of hardship. Six in ten (62.1%) said it was not at all challenging to privilege telehealth providers, one-third (34.3%) said it was challenging, and few (3.5%) reported this task was extremely challenging.
The challenges related to privileging telehealth providers identified by participants were related to complexity and changing regulations (44.4%), lack of knowledgeable staff (23.0%), lack of adequate staff (22.7%). Three in ten (30.9%) listed “other” challenges, some of which included: no issues or challenges, observing regulatory waivers and changes, inadequate telemedicine credentialing-by-proxy process, large volume of verifications, lack of time, office closures making verifications difficult to obtain, off-site practitioners providing telehealth care, and more.
The pandemic has forced many MSPs to revise how they handle privileging for telehealth providers. Since many providers have been overwhelmed treating COVID-19 patients onsite, additional providers have been required to maintain quality of care at facilities for the remainder of the patient population. MSPs have been forced to rethink the way telehealth providers are credentialed. 51% of respondents in our survey indicated that the use of telehealth services significantly increased during 2020. Some of the challenges with this included complexity and changing regulations as the pandemic unfolded, and lack of knowledgeable and adequate staff to handle the workload. Other challenges included office closures making verifications difficult to obtain, as well as an inadequate credentialing by proxy process. Of note, the same amount of the respondents indicated they use credentialing by proxy for telehealth providers as those who went through the full credentialing process. Because of the challenges and sheer volumes, it may force some facilities to re-evaluate how telehealth providers are credentialed.
These findings represent only a small portion of the survey results presented in VerityStream’s 2021 Annual Report on Medical Staff Credentialing. This year’s report, the fifth installment, is based on a survey of 1000+ medical services professionals and provides insight into the entire medical staff credentialing process. For an overview of the report, register for the upcoming webinar, which will zero in on key findings from the survey regarding process improvement, provider data management, internal resource constraints, and everything in between.
View the recorded webinar: 2021 Annual Report on Medical Staff Credentialing.
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