Can Vendor Credentialing be Done Seamlessly? A Case Study

Credentialing Software, CredentialingI’m the analyst responsible for symplr at St. Luke’s Health System in Boise, ID. We’re a medium-sized IDN but we’re the largest employer in the state of Idaho with about 13,000 employees as well as 866 beds in over 300 clinics. Recently we implemented the symplr Vendor Credentialing program and there were many struggles in doing this, but more revolved around change management than anyone had anticipated. 

In total, the implementation took over a year to complete and in part, this was due to the fact that our particular IDN was growing and acquiring hospitals quickly (and each hospital had its own policies and procedures with no standard for how to manage the suppliers). Now, we’re going to look at some challenges we had to overcome and some lessons learned.

Some challenges…

One of the biggest challenges up front was in creating the policy was actually in defining a vendor or a sales rep or drug rep because there are a lot of different names that we call them by. Ultimately, we settled on Health Care Industry Representative (HCIR).

Another biggie was with check-in stations and whether we should have automated terminals, manned terminals, or a combination of both. We ended up going with “both” mostly due to the fact that at smaller locations where traffic is funneled through one point of entry, it makes more sense to have a manned station, and at the larger locations with multiple points of entry, it would be too much to have a full-time person at each station. But for an unmanned station, you still need someone to maintain the station (perform overrides, answer questions, refill paper to the printer, etc) and we had an interesting time figuring out who that should be – we explored distribution staff volunteers, gift shop staff. Ultimately, we determined to have a volunteer manager who is a St. Luke’s employee at each site check the station based on a schedule and they contact distribution when they need something.

Another big challenge was in the requirements gathering phase. It was definitely a collaborative effort with the staff at symplr, but it is daunting… Essentially, you gather all the requirements together and you put them all together and you send it over to symplr and they upload it or create that system in symplr but there’s a lot of input and back and forth to make sure that everything is translated correctly and loaded correctly. For us, there were a lot of blurry lines between which campus was which because everyone was kind of using the same campus. We ended up translating all of this into 12 locations with symplr.

Some lessons learned

Plan, plan, plan.

Sometimes sticking to your plan is as difficult as actually planning! What I learned is to schedule a weekly meeting so you can ensure that the progress of the project continues and each week you can focus on immediate priorities to make sure they are accomplished on time.

Policy is key.

Without a governing policy, compliance is very difficult. If employees don’t have some standard to hold, it is difficult for them to manage that credentialing piece that is needed (and they really rely on that).

The definition of HCIR.

Just when we thought we got the definition right, we thought we included – and excluded – the right people, we figured out that we missed somebody or we didn’t miss somebody so somebody needed it changed for some reason or another. This goes back a little bit to the planning piece but it turned out to be its own beast in our case. 

Looking forward

What does the future hold for symplr at St. Luke’s? We plan to expand symplr into all clinics at some point – and our clinics really want to use it. Eventually we will get there…

The answer to the question the title poses is yes, vendor credentialing implementation can absolutely be done seamlessly… but with the big caveat to note that “seamless” is unfortunately not the same thing as “effortless”.

Bentley O'Neil

About the Author
Bentley O'Neil

Bentley O’Neil earned a supply chain management degree from Boise State University. He has five years of supply chain experience and has been with St. Luke’s Health System for two and a half years. His current responsibilities include: value analysis, vendor management, and analytics. He led a team to create a new health system vendor policy in 2014 and then led the re-implementation of symplr across seven hospitals. He has also been instrumental in the analytics and presentations for physician preference initiatives.

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