By The Consortium for Universal Healthcare Credentialing
The past year has seen disruptions, delays and postponements in every aspect of the medical device industry and healthcare supply chain. Product delays and shortages have been a common occurrence, and consumption has been unpredictable. Business meetings have been forever changed because of the required use of remote technologies. More importantly, adjusting to rapid change has become the norm for organizations everywhere.
Not surprisingly, flexibility has become a way of life for the Consortium for Universal Healthcare Credentialing (C4UHC), the healthcare industry’s only organization dedicated to the adoption of a national standard for representative credentialing. Adjustments began more than two years ago with the development of a strategic plan. Dedicated C4UHC members and supporters hailing from 15 of the top Fortune 500 companies in the healthcare industry re-energized their quest for a universal standard for vendor credentialing. Using the roadmap from the strategic planning process, a revitalized board of directors immediately began to implement changes to the organization, including:
- Partnering with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the National Electric Manufacturers Association (NEMA) to receive approval for a new supplier credentialing standard
- Establishing the Consortium as an independent 501(c)(6) nonprofit organization
- Hiring an executive director
“We’ve really gained traction in the last two years and have made such progress,” said C4UHC Board Secretary Lori Russell. “We put the right model organization in place. Now we are sustaining progress and continuing to move forward with energy.”
For example, the revitalized organization was immediately put to the test when the pandemic hit. C4UHC leaders quickly joined with their previous collaborators to help produce a revised standard that addressed Covid-19 requirements. That revised standard is available at https://www.nema.org/standards/view/american-national-standard-for-supplier-credentialing-in-healthcare.
Evolution of credentialing
Healthcare industry representative (HCIR) credentialing has grown dramatically in the last decade. What started as a few simple requirements and processes has now become highly complex and variable. Complexity and confusion due to the lack of standardization was cited as the number one barrier to compliance in a recent C4UHC survey.
Following ANSI/NEMA protocol to ensure fair balance and transparency, C4UHC sought a diverse cross-section of collaborators and relevant stakeholders as part of the canvass group. The first SC-1 American National Standards for Supplier Credentialing in Healthcare was developed through the engagement of more than 45 healthcare suppliers, providers, vendor credentialing organizations and other relevant stakeholders.
“Compliance with the ANSI Standard should help vendor credentialing organizations facilitate communication between suppliers and providers,” commented Margo Bear, C4UHC Board chair. “A simpler standardized system helps everyone in the supply chain. All credentialing stakeholders are seeking to achieve compliance with requirements, but overcomplicated and unstandardized requirements only serve to hinder compliance.”
The Consortium is working hard to promote adoption of the new American National Standard. “Adoption is the next step,” reported C4UHC Executive Director Mickey Kaufman. “Members have worked hard to change our organization and put us in a better position to promote adoption. We have fundamentally changed our structure so that more stakeholders can be involved. We have published a contemporary standard that reflects the realities of today, adjusted the standard to meet emerging needs, written new bylaws, recruited new leadership, and updated our website. Now we need nationwide adoption!”
Kaufman is also pleased that C4UHC is engaging both suppliers and providers in these efforts. “The pandemic has seriously impacted the supplier representative community across the nation. Representative access to physicians, healthcare leaders and provider facilities is severely restricted, hindering knowledge transfer and collaboration. The need for a standardized national approach for credentialing supplier representatives and enabling access has never been greater.”
Fortunately, healthcare provider interest in C4UHC and its mission is high. It is conservatively estimated that U.S. healthcare – through the supplier community – spends over $8 billion on credentialing. Tests, certifications, fees, systems, management and staffing – these costs add up quickly. Providers see the indirect impact on their bottom lines, but do not see the direct cost borne by the supplier community. “The Consortium exists to bring about a standardized solution that will help manage this expensive challenge for suppliers and providers both,” added supply chain consultant Dennis Orthman, who has worked extensively with C4UHC. “Our industry needs to understand that this lack of standardization and the resulting excess cost is not just a suppler challenge; it’s a challenge for every stakeholder.”
Board member Martha Gibbons has been a vendor credentialing specialist and an active member of C4UHC for several years. Gibbons said, “C4UHC expects to lead the conversation and remove the barriers to adoption.” In addition, C4UHC leaders have developed and are pursuing an aggressive series of goals for 2021 and beyond. “We want to engage the provider community better.”
Mickey Kaufman summarized the hard work that has been done by the Consortium over the last two years. “In a nutshell, C4UHC has successfully pivoted to becoming a formal, independent organization. We are poised to engage with healthcare providers in efforts to promote adoption of the 2020 American National Standard. It is a noble mission, and we hope the road is not long!” Kaufman theorized that adoption could be accomplished one provider at a time, or it could be propelled by mass adoption through one or more credentialing companies. “Regardless of the pathway,” Kaufman asserts, “an efficient, standardized credentialing system will also be good for patients.”
C4UHC’s Lori Russell wants to encourage the ongoing growth of membership in C4UHC. The more suppliers and providers who join as members, the faster the organization can achieve its goals. “Suppliers and providers who want to be on the cutting edge of change, we would like to hear from you,” she invites. “Reach out to us at https://c4uhc.org.”
You are flying across the U.S. for work, visiting multiple cities on your trip. But you discover that each airport’s security checkpoint requires a different form of ID – a passport is required at one airport, a social security card is mandatory at the next, etc. What happens if you don’t have all the different documents you need to reach all your work destinations?
For many healthcare supplier representatives and the providers they serve, current vendor credentialing requirements pose almost this exact same challenge.