Minnesota hospitals look at vendor credentialing

Edition: September 2012 - Vol 20 Number 09
Article#: 4061
Author: Repertoire

It wasn’t a ringing endorsement for vendor credentialing standards, but the “Vendor Credentialing Report,” published in January by the Minnesota Hospital Association, could give hope to vendors willing to read between the lines.

The report had been mandated in 2010 by the state legislature, which called for the hospital association, in conjunction with the Minnesota Credentialing Collaborative, to make recommendations by January 2012 “on the development of standard accreditation methods for vendor services provided within hospitals and clinics.” According to the report’s authors, “This legislation was in response to a legislator’s constituent concern that the vendor credentialing process was overly burdensome and that each hospital had its own unique and different set of requirements.”

The Minnesota report coincides with work being done on the vendor-credentialing front by the Indiana Hospital Association, Joint Commission and Mayo Clinic. (See July and August Repertoire.)

As part of its research, the hospital association surveyed its members about credentialing. Of the 84 that responded, 68 percent (primarily larger facilities) reported having a vendor accreditation process in place. Of that 68 percent, 73 percent said they used a national vendor accreditation company, and 26 percent said they had an internally developed process.

Healthcare isn’t alone

Perhaps not surprisingly, the report rises to the defense of vendor credentialing. “The health care industry is not alone in requiring vendors to complete a vendor credentialing process,” write the report’s authors. “Food processing manufacturers, oil refineries and banking all require a very high level of security and scrutiny before a vendor representative may attempt to sell a product or service.

“[I]t is the hospital administration’s responsibility to manage access to the hospital campus so that everyone is safe and care processes are not disrupted,” they write. Vendor credentialing helps hospitals achieve that goal.

“Credentialing is also a step in managing the supply chain and therefore managing costs for the hospital.”

“There is a need to manage vendor credentialing, communication, and facility access,” says Jim Van Drasek, system director materials management, HealthEast Care System, Saint Paul, Minn., and a member of the work group that helped produce the document. “This is increasingly important as we drive product and contract standardization and corporate value analysis program selection processes to ensure that those decisions are not undermined.

“The vendor management companies can provide an effective service to assist with this. However, it is the organization personnel that must ensure that we have compliance. Staff must identify vendors that are not complying and do not follow our organization’s procedures. They need to take action and communicate situations to Materials Management so that appropriate action can be taken.”

More than meets the eye

On the surface, the hospital association’s two recommendations appear innocuous. However, there may be more than meets the eye, according to some observers.

First, the association encourages all hospitals and healthcare systems to post their vendor requirements on their website.

It is the second recommendation that signals some openness to the concept of standardization, which has been a dream of vendors. “[T]he current work being done at the national level to develop common standards should continue,” conclude the report’s authors. “This work by AdvaMed, providers and others in the health care industry has Minnesota participation and should be encouraged to continue. This national effort could provide a model which would facilitate vendor credentialing standards across state lines.”

Shawn Walker, partner, Bay State Anesthesia, finds reason to be optimistic about the hospital association’s report. Walker has been involved with the vendor credentialing issue on behalf of IMDA, the association for specialty distributors, for several years,

“While it appears at first glance that the MHA is not making much of a statement with their report on vendor credentialing, I am heartened by their endorsement of the progress that AdvaMed has made to drive a national standard for credentialing,” she says. “In the past, hospitals have taken a position that, ‘It’s our facility and we can demand whatever credentials we choose.’

“This expression of willingness to standardize is a major change in their perspective about vendor credentialing, underscoring that collaboration between hospitals and industry on this topic can be productive. AdvaMed and the Coalition for Best Practices in Vendor Credentialing are to be applauded for their continuing efforts to drive disparity and cost out of the credentialing process.”