From Vision to Reality: Healthcare Leaders Share their Vendor Compliance Journeys

Healthcare leaders share vendor compliance journeys

Over the years, complex regulatory mandates, patient and staff safety concerns, and the increasing need for full transparency across hospital activity has fueled efforts to strengthen vendor compliance across the board. For both Cone Health and St. Luke’s Health System, building an infrastructure meant implementing strong policies, standardizing them across facilities, and rolling out thoughtful education programs aimed at developing a culture of compliance with staff and vendors.  

First things first: standardizing a strong policy  

Following leadership sign-off, both Cone Health and St. Luke’s Health System implemented a system-wide approach where one standard meant one policy for their respective health systems. As Crystal Geibel, HCIR Credentialing Administrator at St. Luke’s, shared during a recent roundtable, “This makes it easier for hospital managers and vendors because there is clarity around expectations. Presenting our policy to site leaders really helped support the department leaders so they could prioritize it.”  

So, how common are standardized policies today? During our roundtable, we polled the audience, asking their level of standardization. 72% said they have standardized policies across their facilities, indicating a positive, mature trend for standardization.   

Ultimately, standardization always comes back to the patient. With five hospitals and over 150 physician practices to standardize, Dr. Lobel Lurie, Clinical Value Analysis Manager at Cone Health, shared, “If the culture of an organization is system-wide thinking where you keep the patient at the center of what you do, then you need to follow and standardize the process. The very reason why you have vendor credentialing is to make sure that staff and patients are protected, and you are in compliance.”  

Identifying the top noncompliant vendors 

Managing noncompliance is no easy feat. However, over the years, St. Luke’s has managed to improve their 53% vendor compliance rate to a staggering 93%, and perhaps more importantly, sustain it. Crystal noted, “From a Joint Commission standard, we’re accountable for ensuring the safety of our patients, so we wanted patient-first data. To protect this, we looked at the flows of vendors, the checkpoints with security, improving the badging process, providing a monthly report to each procedural area, and tackling our noncompliance list to sustain our compliance levels.”  

To pinpoint noncompliance, Crystal identified the 20% of reps that accounted for 80% of noncompliance in the cardiology department, which was just five individuals. After working with their rep managers to get their credentials in order, their check-in compliance significantly improved, enhancing patient safety and mitigating overall risk for the health system. 

Education: a critical compliance lever  

In vendor credentialing, it all comes back to educating on the ‘why’. Crystal and Lobel shared their tips for successful education programs:   

  • Share key compliance data and reports with impacted service lines for visibility and buy-in. 
  • Provide key departments with centralized folders containing standard "how-to" guides on protecting compliance. 
  • Standardize education to prevent over-reliance on individual trainers. 
  • Always communicate the ‘why’ by explaining to vendors the importance of missing a check-in and how it puts the organization at risk. They are often not aware that if they miss one check-in, but interact with five patients, they are reported as noncompliant five times. Shift vendors’ focus from selling by helping them understand our responsibility for patient safety and meeting Joint Commission requirements. 
  • Personalize the education by asking vendors to think of their own loved ones and how they would feel if there was a random, unknown person in the room with them during a procedure. 
  • Educate internally as well by conducting department roadshows and share how what you’re doing is industry standard, impacts patient safety, and is crucial to mitigating organizational risk. That helps internal staff not feel alone in enforcing policies.  


Staying prepared for audits   

While audits can bring stress for many health systems, Lobel shared the importance of preparation for when those times come. “As a leader, one thing you must be prepared for is being able to satisfy requirements if there is ever a question from auditing bodies when they do their tracing. With symplr, we have the ability to quickly pull the data and information as to who was at the room, when, who they met, and what procedure they were working on, which makes it so much easier on us and gives us that peace of mind knowing the data is there if we need it.”  

Leveraging technology 

During the roundtable, we asked audience members what their most significant challenge was when it came to enforcing compliance. 52% responded that their biggest challenge was vendors simply bypassing their policies. Both panelists highlighted the importance of using vendor management software to streamline the vendor experience as much as possible, while still capturing needed data and governance. Top benefits include: 

  • Streamlined check-in process  
  • Automated credential tracking and expiration notifications to improve rep compliance  
  • Mobile-enabled solutions for vendor convenience 
  • Real-time visibility into vendor check-ins 
  • Easy access to compliance reports for audits 
  • Direct integration with the value analysis process to reinforce compliance at the point of new product evaluation  
  • Ongoing compliance partnership with support, training, and resources  

When it comes to partnerships, Lobel shared, “I cannot emphasize enough the significance of our partnership with symplr’s onboarding team in getting us on the path to training and education. 90% of the work was given to us on a silver platter. That was really helpful for us because there are so many projects and nuances in supply chain that needed to be addressed.”  

The path forward 

By implementing standardized policies, leveraging technology, and fostering a culture of compliance, healthcare leaders can continue enhancing patient and staff safety while significantly improving their vendor relationships and partnerships. "Vendors are part of our family and our community,” Lobel concluded. “We cannot do the work that we do without their partnership.” 

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