Oregon Health Authority Prepares to Launch New Credentialing Program

The effort is expected to save time and money by centralizing the work of dozens of independent groups.

A new program to streamline Oregon’s chaotic healthcare credentialing process is likely to save time, money and significant hassle for providers across the state.

The Oregon Common Credentialing Program, which officially launches on Nov. 5, will centralize information from dozens of separate credentialing organizations into a single system run by the Oregon Health Authority’s Office of Health Information Technology. The process is expected to increase efficiency, reduce redundancies and greatly simplify the workload for healthcare practitioners and administrators.

Credentialing, which covers licenses and malpractice insurance that doctors and other practitioners need in place to work, is currently done by more than 300 independent groups and companies. Streamlining the process will make those groups house all of the information in the same place with the state, making it easier for administrators and others to reference and update it.  

“Credentialing has been a huge pain point for providers for years,” said Debra Bartel, office administrator for the Portland Diabetes & Endocrinology Center. “Doing it all in one system will save us a ton of time.”

The Common Credentialing Program was mandated by the Legislature through SB 604, which passed in 2013 and was sponsored by two Oregon physicians who were serving in the Legislature. Since then a group of about 50 stakeholders, including Bartel, have been working to select technology partners and hammer out details.

“The idea of a centralized system came out of a response to practitioner concerns,” said Melissa Isavoran, manager of the Common Credentialing Program. “It may be a small part of healthcare administration, but it’s a fundamental one.”

The group selected Medversant, an IT company that runs a somewhat different credentialing system in Washington, through a competitive bid in 2016. Medversant will run the back end information technology parts of the project.

“Every step of the way, Medversant shined through,” Isavoran said.

But Medversant also has its share of critics. The company has been accused of slow implementation in Washington and of poor customer service by some Oregon stakeholders involved in the project.

That’s something OHA has taken into account, Isavoran said.

“What we’ve really done is taken a look at what the problems have been, talked to people about that and found a way to balance it,” Isavoran said.

As part of that effort, OHA hired Conduent, another IT company with a customer service focus, to partner with Medversant. Conduent will function as the project’s accountability help desk, while Medversant will focus on verification, staffing and software issues.

“What we had heard in the past was help desk services weren’t so great, so we wanted to make sure we could bring a better level of service,” Isavoran said.

The next step in the process will be a pilot project that allows early adopters to join starting on July 2, she noted.  

A major goal of the project is to reduce the amount of time and effort spent on the credentialing process. Physicians and other health workers often must submit paperwork to upwards of 40 different organizations - all of which process information at varying speeds.

“One of the primary purposes of the program is to reduce practitioner burden,” said Susan Otter, director of Health Information Technology for OHA.

For Bartel, credentialing under the old system sometimes took 80 hours for a single practitioner, especially with the back and forth between those 40 or so groups. Under the new system, she expects that will take just a few hours - and eventually even less time than that.

“Having the same information in one spot - where it’s the same all the time and always up to date? That’s fantastic,” Bartel said. “I’m sure there will be some learning curves, but I see this as a plus for everyone.”

Practitioner application fees, which are a one-time, $150 per person fee, are due on April 30, 2019, for the program.

Credentialing organizations will also pay a one time setup fee, and then pay annually based on their size. Those with fewer than 90 practitioners will pay about $90 per practitioner. Those with more than 15,000 will pay a total of $195,000 a year, Isavoran said.

The state had to use some innovation grant funding to build the system for launch, but once it’s implemented, it will pay for itself, Otter said.

The system also lets providers monitor what paperwork has been received by credentialing organizations so they can follow through the process, Bartel said.

“I can’t tell you how many times they’ve told me they’ve lost paperwork,” Bartel said. “With this, that won’t happen anymore.”

Another benefit from the program is that health workers will be able to switch jobs without going through a mess of updating their credentials in several places to inform each credentialing group that they’ve moved. Instead, everything will be in one place and can be updated quickly at the same time for all Oregon providers and practitioners.   

“Once your information is in there, it’s verified,” Isavoran said. “It’s fully processed. We just verify changes after that. If you go to another employer in Oregon, that organization can just come and pluck all your credentialing information right from the system.”

It should also help rural clinics get new doctors and providers up and working with patients more quickly, Otter said.

“For our rural clinics, rural healthcare providers with challenges recruiting, it’s hard for them to recruit new physicians and then for them to have to wait for credentialing to go through,” Otter said. “This is something we expect to have particular value in those settings.”

It could also save administrative costs - because workers now tasked with credentialing can be retasked into other areas where they are more needed, Bartel said.

“I think larger organizations, will they eventually need less staff because of this? Maybe,” Bartel said. “But I don’t see them just firing people. There are a lot of other jobs to do.”

 

Learn More:

What: Webinar on Centralized Provider Data in Oregon

Sponsored By: Oregon Health Authority

When: March 20, noon to 1 p.m.

Cost: Free

For more information and to register online: Visit http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?llr=navqasdab&oeidk=a07ef65gsqs71a0f7f9&oseq=
 

Sue Vorenberg is a freelance journalist based in Vancouver, Washington. Reach her at [email protected].

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