Improve credentialing as a path to physician retention

Achieving credentialing efficiency requires practices to automate, centralize, and ensure visibility into their credentialing data.

Physician retention begins during physician recruitment. A March 2021 survey by Jackson Physician Search revealed that 49% of administrators start retention programs while recruiting new talent.

Where that simultaneous recruitment and retention effort often fumbles is from long, paperwork-filled credentialing and onboarding processes that drain physician enthusiasm and clutter up administrative staff time. Patient access—and resulting revenue—is also hindered during the months it typically takes to get a new physician up and running.

By contrast, an efficient credentialing process is one way to help address problems with provider satisfaction and reduce the burnout causing so many physicians to leave the industry. Improved credentialing demonstrates a practice’s nimbleness and gets new physicians back into satisfying patient care workflows faster. However, achieving credentialing efficiency requires practices to automate, centralize, and ensure visibility into their credentialing data.

Automate data collection

Traditional credentialing can take about 30 to 60 days. However, an automated and universal credentialing system for an organization can decrease that time from months down to a week or couple of days..

Setting aside the ordinary waiting time that comes from reaching out to references, automating credentialing can streamline and reduce workloads by leveraging data already provided by NCQA approved data sources and other systems. Taking data from online sources helps streamline the process of data collection, which in turn helps to auto-populate practice forms, privileges, and payor enrollment applications. Those forms can then be sent to providers or completed by credentialing specialists and should only take a few minutes to complete.

In addition, automated processes help ensure that all of the requested information is accurate. Rather than risk potentially costly back-end problems arising from missing or incomplete information, practices can be assured of data integrity from trusted sources such as NCQA approved sites.

Centralize data

Many healthcare organizations’ credentialing procedures appear on the surface to have served them well for years. Ultimately, though, physicians end up duplicating effort and having to double-enter information.Variations in paperwork and administrative workflows create bottlenecks for physicians ready to join a practice, which are further compounded when physicians need to be credentialed to practice in multiple locations within a group.

Centralized data is the key to streamlined processes that can cut down on hours of administrative work performed by physicians, human resources staff, and administrators. Uniform, data-driven credentialing allows physicians and administrators to auto-fill repetitive data while verifying information from external sources, such as state licensing boards or DEA and AMA sites. In addition, changes in status within any external databases—such as a licensing board—can automatically be updated within the credentialing system.

Centralized systems enable practices to import data from these sites to be kept on record as a physician moves throughout a healthcare organization, saving hours of filing time. They can also save time and hassle for individual practice administrators, who can worry less about clerical errors, while also spending less time on paperwork.

Gain clear visibility

Many physician practices are working on plans to recoup income lost during the pandemic. Some of those goals hinge on proper credentialing. Whether a practice is planning to add more physicians to increase care options or to create support roles for burnt-out staff, speeding up credentialing enables providers to start caring for patients faster.

However, a lack of visibility into credentialing data can quickly halt those goals. Administrators who don’t know where a physician is cleared to practice within a health system can’t set a stable and consistent schedule, leading to scheduling delays and gaps. The resulting delays in patient care can be costly for patients, providers, and practices.

Workforce optimization starts with knowing which physicians are credentialed and available for scheduling. By opening more options for scheduling, practices can speed patient throughput and increase engagement. This visibility also creates a clear bottom-line benefit that works for the health system, even as it maximizes productivity and alleviates some of the conditions that can contribute to physician burnout.

Differentiate through better credentialing

When multiple healthcare organizations within a single market are recruiting the same top talent, a better credentialing system can become a valuable differentiator. An automated process and centralized data can cut down on the bureaucracies and unnecessary manual paperwork usually associated with credentialing, resulting in simpler, faster, and more accurate workflows all around.

Streamlined credentialing and onboarding can turn a traditional physician pain point into a physician satisfier, with additional positive impacts on patient access, patient care, and the bottom line. By making credentialing and onboarding easier, practices have another tool to help retain top talent and deliver excellent patient care.

Grant Fields is SVP of Credentialing at QGenda, the leading innovator in healthcare workforce management solutions.