Observation Deck – Vendor credentialing: The audacity of hope

The vendor credentialing controversy calls up so many issues. On the surface, it’s all about patient safety. Who could dispute the hospital’s right and obligation to take every step possible to ensure the safety of its patients by verifying sales reps’ vaccination status, knowledge of aseptic technique (for those calling on patient care areas) and even product knowledge?

But below the surface are some pesky buyer-seller issues. Vendors wonder if the hefty fees charged by some of the vendor credentialing companies are a thinly veiled attempt by hospitals to force them to go away. At the very least, they wonder if their customers are a bit cavalier about how much their vendors have to pay to get credentialed. And let’s face it: The issues of vendor credentialing and vendor screening do seem to be intertwined.

Issues like these are never fully and finally resolved. That’s because the buyer/seller relationship is constantly evolving. That said, the two sides should really get their act together on this vendor-credentialing thing. There’s a lot at stake.

Hospitals should understand that even if they don’t pay the vendor-credentialing fees, they do face hidden costs. If the fees are high enough, for example, some small vendors could go out of business. Is that really what anybody wants? And those that don’t fold up their tents will do their best to recoup some of the costs lost to the vendor-credentialers, and they’ve only got one place to go – you. So IDNs should expect processing fees or surcharges to start popping up soon.

I think both sides are agreed that automated, online vendor credentialing is a good thing. For vendors, it saves them the time and expense of filling out a variety of forms for each of their hospital customers. For IDNs, it provides a simple, quick way of ensuring that the vendors that show up are credentialed to call on them.

But it would seem to be in everyone’s interest to keep the cost of vendor credentialing as low as possible. There do seem to be models out there that would give the hospitals what they want – that is, knowledge of and some control over the vendors who are calling on them – at an affordable cost to the vendors. Could this evolve into something similar to the credit-reporting industry, where credit reports from any one of three companies – Equifax, TransUnion and Experian – are universally accepted by creditors? Something like that wouldn’t be a bad thing for this industry at all.

There will always be contentiousness between buyers and sellers. It’s a love/hate thing. But buyers need sellers and sellers need buyers. Is it too audacious to hope that some dialogue and cooperation between the two can bring about some mutually beneficial solutions for vendor credentialing?

About the Author

Mark Thill
Mark Thill is the Editor of The Journal of Healthcare Contracting and has been reporting on healthcare supply chain issues since 1985. He is a graduate of Dominican University in River Forest, Ill., and he received a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.
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