A Complete Guide to Healthcare Vendor Credentialing

January 17, 2023

Vetting third-party services used by your healthcare practice is vital to patient security. To achieve successful healthcare outcomes, you should ensure that every service that directly or indirectly impacts your patients undergoes thorough vetting. 

Before the mid-2000s, access to healthcare facilities was lax. Non-employees could access hospital buildings and healthcare workers. Sometimes they had sensitive patient information. Vendor credentialing came through. 

When state and federal laws around patient privacy became stricter, vendor credentialing became critical to ensuring patient safety, privacy, and general hospital security. 

In this article, we will understand what we need to know about healthcare vendor credentialing and why it is essential for the successful outcomes of healthcare practices. 

What is Vendor Credentialing? 

Vendor credentialing is the ongoing process healthcare facilities use to verify and ensure that healthcare vendors and their representatives meet all the required training, certification, and immunization to access the hospital building or work on site. 

Vendors must meet your facility's requirements for their products or services to gain access to the facility.

Typically, your facilities' supply chain department oversees vendor credentialing. However, anyone who manages vendor access and their products or services can play a role in vendor credentialing. 

Vendor credentialing is pivotal in ensuring the well-being of your patients. When credentialed vendor representatives check into the hospital, they are given a tag that outlines what credentialing they have and what areas of the facilities they are allowed to access. 

While different vendor credentialing systems might have some unique requirements, some essential vendor credentialing requirements include; 

  •  Employment Verification 
  •  Certifications and Training 
  •  Drug screening results
  •  HIPAA compliance certification 
  •  Background checks on Federal and state levels 
  •  Current PPD (tuberculosis) test results 
  •  Vaccines (like COVID-19, Hepatitis B, MMR, Tetanus, and Influenza) 
  • Training on safety 

Levels of Vendor Credentials

Vendors' credential varies based on the level of access they ought to have in the hospital. There are three levels of access, namely:

  • No access to Clinical Areas: These vendors are restricted from giving technical support to healthcare providers, and neither do they consult with them. They are not also allowed to consult with healthcare providers. 
  •  Access to Clinical Areas: Vendors with this access level can provide technical assistance and consult with healthcare providers.
  •  Access to Patient Care and Restricted Areas: This is the highest access level a vendor can get. Vendors with this access level often support medical practitioners while performing a medical procedure on patients using special medical devices and equipment. 

Importance of Vendor Credentialing in Healthcare 

Vendor Credentialing has a considerable role to play in healthcare outcomes. Vendors' products and services play a huge role in patient outcomes. Every vendor who has access to a healthcare facility directly impacts patient care. 

Therefore, hospitals and healthcare facilities must do their due diligence to ensure that the vendors supplying the products and services are competent enough to take on that responsibility.

Healthcare vendor credentialing is a proactive measure that healthcare managers take towards protecting patients and the organization. 

It is also necessary to comply with regulatory standards, such as The Joint Commission, the American Association of Surgeons (ACS), and the Association of Operating Room Nurses. Vendor credentialing aids compliance with these regulations protecting patient privacy. 

In essence, vendor credentialing is essential in healthcare for the following reasons; 

1. It Helps Ensure Greater Security for Your Patients and Employee

Physical security has become an issue of great concern in our society today. Today, security concerns are wide-ranging from terrorism to theft and even cybersecurity. Healthcare facilities are not immune from these threats. Vendor credentialing significantly reduces the likelihood of these events happening at your facility and keeps your patients and employees safe. 

2. Ensuring Patient's Privacy and Confidentiality: 

Whether through internal or external vendor credentialing systems, vendor credentialing plays an essential role in ensuring that your patient's information is kept private.

Before vendor credentialing became a thing in the healthcare industry, everybody had a free pass into the healthcare facility and could access sensitive patient information. 

But as vendor credentialing has become necessary in the healthcare industry today, hospitals now can ensure that only authorized individuals and entities have access to patient information. 

3. Vendor Credentialing Can Help Avoid Spread of Communicable Disease: 

Hospitals and healthcare facilities are places to get healing and solutions to health problems. No one goes to a hospital healthy expecting to leave there sick. But that might be the case if infectious diseases are free-flowing within the hospital. 

Infections spreading within a hospital is a vital concern. This is mainly because of the need to protect those patients whose ailment makes them vulnerable to certain infections. With a hospital vendor credentialing system, you can ensure that only those with the right treatments and vaccinations can access the facility.

4. Better Control of Your Healthcare Facilities' Supply Chain:

Vendor credentialing can help protect your healthcare practice from making emotional purchases. Such emotional investment could be induced by pressure, persuasion, or favoritism. Vendor credentialing is an objective process.

Therefore, it is the best way to establish an accountability framework within your supply chain.

In addition, vendor credentialing helps reduce the risk of miscommunication between different departments in your facility while dealing with vendors.

Since there is a standardized system for engaging vendors, every department in the hospital understands what vendor they are working with at each point in time. Vendor credentialing can also help your healthcare practice quickly respond to a supply interruption by using pre-credentialed backup vendors. 

Wrapping Up

One major problem facing vendor credentialing today is the lack of a standardized credential repository. Inconsistent facility requirements often lead to delays when vendors try accessing a hospital. 

This means that Vendor A can meet the vendor credentialing requirement of hospital A and, on getting to hospital B, is denied access. Sometimes, obtaining the proper credentials to access hospital B could take weeks. In the case of an emergency, this delay could affect patient outcomes. 

But with the push for a national standard, healthcare industry members have aligned to form The Consortium for Universal Healthcare Credentialing. By following the guideline, you can standardize and enforce the exact credentialing requirements across all facilities in your organization. 

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