Congratulations to the staff and organizers of the National Association of Medical Staff Services for one of the best virtual conferences our team has attended! It was great to connect with our peers and to hear how medical staff services members are adapting and managing credentialing during this pandemic.
As COVID-19 continues to overwhelm the nation’s health care providers, the impact of the doctor shortage has become more acute. Hospitals are struggling to bring qualified doctors on board faster and more efficiently. Delays that were once routine are no longer acceptable in a pandemic.
Bottom line: More doctors are needed. Now. That’s why a growing number of hospitals are turning to online, digital peer referencing solutions to eliminate delays while ensuring credentialing standards are met.
At the same time, many medical staff services teams shifted to work-from-home operations. Suddenly, many facilities needed to digitalize credentialing processes, both to enable staff to work from home and to expedite credentialing processes while ensuring patient safety.
All of this is driving increased interest in our digital, online software, SkillSurvey Credential OnDemand which allows medical staff services to automate the entire peer referencing process. For example, with a few keystrokes, they can:
- send links to digital questionnaires to doctors’ peers;
- schedule automatic reminders for non-responders;
- see all activity and response dates in an online dashboard;
- ensure that all questions on the form are answered and legible, eliminating the need to follow up with the reference for missing or incomplete information;
- generate a report that compiles and compares all reference responses;
- trigger real-time red flags based on questionnaire responses that raise concern;
- automatically populate response data to the Cactus system to fulfill credentialing requirements.
“As was mentioned in the 2020 NAMSS Conference, health systems are standardizing their peer reference forms across all their facilities in order to be able to share the information and to avoid having to create and maintain separate electronic documents for each facility.” – Linda Van Winkle, SkillSurvey’s Credentialing Consultant.
Digital Peer Referencing Shrinks Response Times
In our past surveys of more than 300 members of the National Association of Medical Staff Services (NAMSS):
- 59% reported that they use manual methods (e.g., fax, mail, phone) to solicit and collect references;
- 20% said it took 5-6 weeks or longer to receive completed peer references for a doctor they wanted to bring on board.
But with digital peer referencing, references respond quicker because they can submit feedback 24/7 using any smartphone, tablet, or computer and e-sign. Our research shows medical staff services using SkillSurvey Credential OnDemand® receive complete, legible feedback in less than three days. No more time wasted sending out paper requests, coaxing references to submit feedback, and then waiting for mail or faxes to arrive.
Medical Staff Services Teams are Digitizing More of their Forms and Processes
As medical staff services begin to see vast improvements in peer referencing, they’re digitizing other forms that are part of their processes, for example:
- OPPE/FPPE evaluations
- Proctor/preceptor evaluations
- Supervising physician evaluations
Baystate Health Cut Processes, Costs & Improves Patient Satisfaction
After switching to digital peer referencing, Baystate Health, an integrated health care system providing healthcare to over 800,000 people, tracked a remarkable change. It started collecting feedback in just 20 minutes. Previously, Baystate medical staff services sometimes waited up to five weeks for responses. That’s a whopping 1,920% improvement.
Now, for each provider, Baystate Health medical services staff spend just a couple of minutes on peer referencing. They used to spend up to two hours tracking the status of requests, sending reminders and following up on incomplete responses. Overall, they now devote 10%, not 60%, of their time to peer referencing. (Read the full case study on how Baystate Health transformed its peer referencing.)
Digital peer referencing allows newly hired doctors to get started caring for patients faster – and earning more revenue for hospitals. At Baystate Health, peer reference delays had negatively affected compliance ratings and customer satisfaction. But after implementing digital peer referencing, the hospital improved both its compliance ratings and customer satisfaction by 80%.
In the COVID-19 Age, Hospitals Face Multiple Changes
The doctor shortage is getting worse. In fact, a June Association of American Medical Colleges study predicts a shortfall of up to 139,000 physicians by 2033. That includes gaps of up to 55,200 primary care physicians and 86,700 specialty care physicians.
Add the COVID-19 pandemic to the mix. A report by researchers Merritt Hawkins and The Physicians Foundation found that COVID-19 has spurred many doctors to change their practices or call it quits. In the study of 842 U.S. physicians, about one-third (32%) said they planned to “change practice settings, leave patient care roles, temporarily shut their practices or retire in response to COVID-19.” A July survey of over 1,000 people in the U.S. found nearly 70% have had a video consultation with a medical professional. For 40% of those, it was their first telemedicine visit since COVID-19 struck.
We all hope COVID-19 goes away – fast. But in the meantime, the twin emergencies of the pandemic and a worsening doctor shortage demand that hospitals do everything they can to adapt to a remote environment as they hire and onboard the best doctors. There’s no time to lose.
Learn more about how you can transform peer referencing to eliminate delays in hiring new physicians and, ultimately, improve how your hospital cares for patients.