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How COVID Made Efficient Healthcare Credentialing More Important Than Ever

As the end of the COVID-19 pandemic — finally — comes into view, the state of the American healthcare industry is uncertain, to say the least.

On the one hand, as long as there are people who want to feel better, live longer, and improve the quality of their lives, there will be a demand for healthcare services. On the other hand, the COVID crisis disrupted the healthcare industry as much as (if not more than) every other field.

The tumultuous pandemic year reinforced a crucial reality for healthcare organizations: Your success depends on having the right people in the right positions at the right time.

That means hiring qualified doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals. But it also means being able to respond nimbly to unanticipated situations such as the pandemic, scaling your team up or down rapidly while minimizing risk and maximizing efficiency.

This is why, as they face a post-COVID rebuilding period, full of promise but also uncertainty, healthcare organizations must rethink how they approach healthcare credentialing.

How the Pandemic Upended Healthcare Hiring

During the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals in some areas overflowed with patients. Doctors and nurses pushed themselves past the point of exhaustion while contending with shortfalls of ventilators and PPE.

Meanwhile, healthcare organizations not involved with the pandemic response were forced to cut back on services and staff severely. Elective and routine medical services were delayed or canceled. Many patients chose to postpone procedures to avoid the risk of exposure.

According to an American Medical Association survey, more than 80% of physicians said they lost revenue in the summer of 2020. The American healthcare industry shed 1.5 million jobs during the first months of the pandemic, negating years of growth. Physician recruitment plummeted 30%.

A Tentative Recovery

As we write this in early 2021, the healthcare sector shows some signs of a gradual return to its pre-pandemic heights. The return of ambulatory service and dental care — two areas hit hard by the COVID economy — contributed to several months of steady growth.

Still, the recovery is uneven. In early March, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) noted that losses in nursing care facilities offset gains in ambulatory health services.

“Employment in health care and social assistance is down by 909,000 over the year,” the BLS reported.

Looking Toward the Future of Healthcare

Eventually, the healthcare field will return to a state of rapid job growth. The BLS says healthcare occupations will grow 15 percent between 2019 and 2029, much faster than average, adding about 2.4 million new jobs.

But the “new normal” may not be identical to the pre-COVID status quo. As Deloitte analysts described in a recent report:

“For the healthcare industry, the COVID-19 pandemic is more than a black swan event. It is a global experience that has forever changed the industry as we have known it in unprecedented ways. Consumers’ trust has been eroded, and their anxiety, uncertainty, and grief will require ecosystem players to fundamentally transform the way that services are delivered if they are to effectively address the gaps exposed by this crisis and rebuild confidence in the system.”

The Post-COVID Credentialing Outlook

In the near-term, as the pandemic recedes and healthcare facilities return to full capacity, there will be a rush of hires, all of which will need to be credentialed. Much of the new employment will be temporary and travel-oriented.

In some areas, many new nursing jobs have gone to traveling nurses, who come from out-of-state and possess multi-state RN licenses under the Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact (eNLC). These licenses are often temporary, good for 30 days to six months.

Existing personnel also require credential checks. According to a Mental Health America survey, 93% of healthcare professionals are highly stressed by the pandemic. Keeping their licenses up-to-date may not be at the top of their minds.

In the long-term, the medical technologies, processes, and policies that emerge in the wake of the COVID crisis may reshape the qualifications required to perform healthcare roles. Healthcare employers must remain vigilant to ensure their people are up to their tasks and that their organizations’ revenue and reputations are protected.

How to Make Healthcare Credentialing Faster and More Cost-Effective

One thing we can say for certain about the coming months and years in the healthcare industry is that credentialing departments will have their work cut out for them.

Unfortunately, healthcare credentialing using conventional manual methods has long been a hiring bottleneck and a budgetary drain on healthcare organizations.

Whether it maintains its own credentialing department or outsources to a third-party credential verification organization (CVO), a large medical employer can easily spend several hundreds of thousands of dollars each year on credentialing. And even then, incidents may fall through the cracks between periodic rechecks.

Considering the potential costs of employing an unlicensed individualfines of up to $10,000 for each incident, lawsuits, negative publicity, and the loss of Medicare/Medicaid funding — healthcare organizations cannot allow themselves to fall behind on credentialing.

Fortunately, there is a much more affordable, more efficient alternative to manual healthcare credentialing: automated and continuous healthcare credentialing.

Automated healthcare credentialing services capture real-time data from primary sources to provide both verification for new hires and intelligent monitoring for ongoing compliance.

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