When your facility hires new physicians, nurse practitioners, or other healthcare providers, it’s essential to move them through the medical credentialing process. This allows you to verify their qualifications and skills while getting them listed as a medical-approved or in-network provider by the insurance companies you most frequently work with. Even if a healthcare provider has been approved by insurance panels in the past, they need to reapply each time they begin work with a new employer.
Unfortunately, medical credentialing is a time-consuming and expensive process that can occupy much of your facility’s resources. To make the system more transparent, experts here at PayrHealth created a guide to help you review the seven key steps in provider credentialing.
The Importance of Provider Credentialing
Before we start discussing the steps, let’s answer the question of why is credentialing important in healthcare to get on the same page about the importance of healthcare credentialing, also known as insurance credentialing or medical credentialing.
Most facilities need to ensure their healthcare providers have proper credentials in order to process insurance claims. Even if some of your clients are uninsured or pay out-of-pocket, credentialing is important for providing broad access to care.
There are unique physician credentialing processes for different healthcare providers. While the process is vital for physicians, the provider credentialing process is also important for:
- Hospitals and health agencies
- Physical therapists
- Licensed massage therapists
- Counselors and psychologists
To accept Medicare and Medicaid, you’ll need to ensure your credentialing department meets guidelines from the following federal agencies:
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)
The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations
Beyond these federal regulations, each state has its own healthcare credentialing requirements. Understanding and closely following these requirements can help reduce your practice’s liability in the face of potential malpractice claims.
Yet, as we noted, credentialing is time-consuming and even tedious. To make sure your healthcare providers receive proper credentials in a timely manner, follow these steps.
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1. Identify the Required Documents
As you begin the provider credentialing process, be aware that each insurance company requires different documentation and forms. You’ll need to submit complete applications to each insurance company you plan to work with—and even a single missing piece of information can delay approval by weeks or months.
To ensure your applications are complete, make a list of all insurance companies you plan to file with. Then, list out any and all required documents. These often include but are not limited to:1
- Social security number
- Demographic information (ethnicity, gender, citizenship, languages spoken)
- Education and residency information
- Proof of licensure
- Career history
- Specialties and patient focus
- Claim history
- Proof of insurance
- Information about your healthcare facility
Hopefully, much of that information was reported in your healthcare provider’s resume and application. However, you’ll need to take steps to ensure its accuracy.
2. Prioritize Insurance Companies
Because you’ll need to submit multiple applications, it may be advantageous to prioritize which dossiers you submit first.
If a significant portion of your medical billing goes through a single insurer, complete their credentialing application first.
Stay familiar with individual insurers’ regulations. Some health insurance companies—for example, Aetna—allow a streamlined process for providers who are already insured in another state.2 That may mean quicker approvals.
Other insurance providers offer an abbreviated application for providers who are already credentialed in-state.
Make a list of your priorities and begin to assemble documents and applications accordingly.
3. Check for Accurate Information
As you begin to assemble required documents and begin individual applications, keep in mind that the quality and accuracy of information is key. Before submitting any application for provider credentialing, take the following steps:
Conduct a background check
Verify educational history, licensing, board certification, peer references, clinical priviledges, and reputation through healthcare organizations such as the American Medical Association (AMA), the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates Certification (ECFMG), and the American Board of Medical Specialties
Review the history of credentialing, privileges, and insurance claims
List any sanctions recorded with the Office of Inspector General (OIG)
Any errors in the submitted information can cause issues. For example:
If months and dates of employment are not easily and accurately verified by past employers, revising the application with the correct information can delay the approval process.
Likewise, incorrect phone numbers for references or past employers can create delays or even rejections.
Omissions of past malpractice claims could be disqualifying.
Once you’ve assembled and verified these documents for your medical providers, you’re ready to present them to facility leadership who will determine the specific privileges to grant to the new provider. This information is vital for the credentialing process.
Manual Verification vs. Other Methods
Should your facility manually verify credentialing data or use an alternate method? Some healthcare facilities choose to undergo the credentialing process the old-fashioned way, calling and emailing medical schools, the American Medical Association, and other key organizations to verify the board certification and other information on a provider’s resume. However, this can be incredibly time-consuming, and any cut corners could result in further delays.
Other options include:
Credentialing software – Programs like Modio and Ready Doc automate parts of the credentialing process by cross-referencing resume and application information with AMA profiles, medical schools, the OIG, and more.
Outsourcing – Is your HR department overwhelmed with provider credentialing? Outsourcing and utilizing a credentialing service can potentially save precious time and money.
Once you’re sure you have accurate information, you can proceed to the next step.
4. Completing the CAQH
Several major healthcare insurers require partner facilities to apply for provider credentialing through the Council for Affordable Quality Healthcare (while also completing their individual applications).3 The process is as follows:
Once your facility has filed an application with an individual insurer, they’ll provide a CAQH number and an invitation to apply.
You’ll be given the option to complete the CAQH form on paper or online. Running to 50 pages when printed, this form is most efficiently completed on a computer (since the CAQH will have to manually enter the data on their end if it is provided on paper).
As with applications to individual insurers, CAQH approval can be significantly delayed by any inaccurate or incomplete information.
After submitting the initial application, be prepared to re-attest. What is re-attestation? To maintain continuous insurance eligibility, you’ll need to attest that a healthcare provider’s information is correct four times each year.
5. Wait for Verification
Once you’ve assembled and submitted your application to insurers, it’s time to wait for their approval. This can be a lengthy process.
While the credentialing process can be completed within 90 days, experts suggest giving yourself 150 days.4 If serious issues arise, credentialing can take even longer. Read more about credentialing issues in healthcare in the meantime.
6. Following Up
Don’t just wait five or six months to hear from an insurer. Credentialing healthcare professionals reveal that consistent follow-ups are key to timely approval. Here are a few best practices:
Cultivate relationships with key personnel at the insurance company. Establishing rapport with leadership, executive assistants, and other staff can help ensure that applications move along in a timely manner.
Check-in via phone rather than email to maximize the chance of a response.
If you find out that more information is required, compile and verify all documents in a timely manner.
Eventually, your healthcare providers will receive their insurance panel credentialing. However, that doesn’t mean they’ll be credentialed forever. Unfortunately, healthcare provider credentialing is an ongoing process that requires more work down the line.
If you discover an error in an employee’s information, it’s important to notify insurers. If they notice the erroneous information before you submit a formal correction, it could be grounds for revocation.
Most providers need re-credentialing every three years.
As we’ve noted, credentialing software can help you manage credentialing. Likewise, it should notify you when it’s time to renew a specific provider’s credentials. However, insurers should also send a notification after three years have elapsed. Respond in a timely manner to ensure your provider can provide patient care without interruption.
Tired of Talking to Insurers? Call in the Experts at PayrHealth
Working with insurance companies can take up a significant portion of your healthcare facility’s resources. Beyond credentialing, negotiating payment contracts is another laborious process that requires your continuous attention. After all, insurers constantly change the terms of their payment contracts—sometimes seemingly with the hopes you’ll be too busy with other paperwork to negotiate a more favorable agreement.
PayrHealth can help. Outsource your negotiation with insurers to free up time and resources for other essential tasks, from credentialing to patient care and beyond. At PayrHealth, we know that giving more time to your patients just makes sense. Contact us today to learn more.
Smart Sheet. Everything You Need to Know About Healthcare Provider Credentialing. https://www.smartsheet.com/medical-provider-credentialing-guide
Physicians Practice. Five Steps to Easy Physician Credentialing. https://www.physicianspractice.com/view/five-steps-easy-physician-credentialing
Medical Credentialing. Step-By-Step Process of Medical Credentialing. https://medicalcredentialing.org/more-on-the-process-of-provider-credentialing/
Physician’s Practice. https://www.physicianspractice.com/view/five-steps-easy-physician-credentialing