North Kansas City Hospital’s recent adoption of symplr Provider's next-generation, cloud-based Application Manager, Committee Manager, and License Monitor modules produced dramatic time savings and provided instant access to secure, accurate data while significantly improving providers’ perceptions of NKCH. Before the hospital’s medical staff office started using symplr’s web-based provider management platform for credentialing, the hospital relied on a legacy, paper-based system.
Previously, incomplete applications and a paper- and mail-based process mired 492 providers, 145 advanced practice professionals (APPs), and three NKCH staff in multiple requests for missing information and never-ending follow-ups. Meanwhile, the U.S. Postal Service further slowed turnaround times and increased costs.
In spring 2015, NKCH committed to using Application Manager to manage credentialing and privileging for all physicians and APPs, newly hired or seeking reappointment, and to help achieve its goal of becoming a truly paperless office.
Two years later, NKCH has recredentialed all of its physicians and APPs. Additionally, NKCH’s application turnaround has dropped to 24-48 hours, and 40% of applications are processed upon receipt, up from the 1% under the paper-based system. Today, just 60% of online applications are returned for corrections, down from 99.9%.
Intuitive and easy-to-use, Application Manager provides internal and external users with immediate access to secure records, which helps earn users’ confidence and trust. Instead of NKCH staff keying in data, Application Manager automatically uploads information, which boosts accuracy and saves time while freeing NKCH staff to double- and triple-check the credentialing, licensing, and privileging documentation.
Of course, those benefits are crucial, but in the eyes of Johnna Schindlbeck, Medical Staff Services Coordinator at NKCH, what’s even better is that providers and APPs can submit only complete applications to NKCH. In addition, because all communication instantaneously takes place online, the need for the U.S. Postal Service and phone, fax, text, and email follow-up communication is virtually eliminated.
“Submitting incomplete applications gave providers and APPs the illusion they were being proactive and helpful, but we couldn’t start processing an incomplete application, so it further slowed the process and increased frustration and stress levels as deadlines loomed,” says Schindlbeck.
In Application Manager, NKCH set certain pre-requisites so the system would not accept incomplete applications. Another Application Manager feature directs applicants to the fields and attachments they’ve missed and must address to submit it.
“The reduced returns and the almost instant online transmission of documents are massive time savers,” says Schindlbeck. “I love the entire symplr Provider system, but the green ‘submit’ button that works only if an application is complete is outstanding.”
If the submitted application contains incorrect information, requires additional detail, or is missing attachments, NKCH staff uses symplr Provider tools to highlight certain fields and send it digitally with just a few clicks.
With the paper applications, NKCS staff made every effort to clearly communicate what was required with highlights and notes, before returning it by mail. However, NKCH staff still faced misunderstandings and omissions and had to follow up by phone, text, email and fax.
Days and even weeks passed while the applicant located the documentation, scanned/copied it, put it in an envelope, then addressed, stamped, and finally mailed the package. The entire process then started all over again.
“We often had three to five providers with incomplete applications the day before the first committee approval meeting because we averaged two to four weeks of dead time with everyone involved waiting on someone else,” says Schindlbeck.
symplr Provider's modules streamline processes
Committee Manager has transformed the review process as much as it has revolutionized applications. This module streamlines the review process and ensures transparency, which is a bonus when the Joint Commission surveyor visits. For example, Schindlbeck can demonstrate that the credentialing committee’s cardiologist did not review an NKCH colleague. It also saves time as reviewers can click “tab to tab” rather than shuffling through paper documents.
The Committee Manager module also offers peace of mind and absolute confidence in the security and integrity of the system and files for review. It tracks and records the user ID of anyone who modifies a file or data as well as the date and time of the modification and whether it’s an addition, a change, or even a deletion. Previously, anyone could add a sheet of paper, black out, or change a comment, despite knowing such actions were prohibited.
Meanwhile, the License Monitor module is also a huge time saver for Schindlbeck and her staff because it searches the licensing database(s) and automatically notifies NKCH regarding providers’ license renewals, expirations, any changes to licenses and disciplinary actions.
“We’re no longer searching for information and chasing providers and their staff,” says Schindlbeck. “In our two busiest months, my staff was bogged down for at least a day a month – and that’s no longer the case.”
Hospital’s Joint Commission survey seen as a success due to symplr Provider
Thanks to Application Manager, Committee Manager, and License Monitor, the hospital’s recent Joint Commission survey was a great success because symplr Provider gave Schindlbeck immediate access to the requested digital files, which she shared on flat screens. Schindlbeck was also able to point to and highlight the fields of interest for the surveyor, NKCH director, and executive committee members.
Some of the surveyor’s questions included:
Where was Dr. X granted privileges? When did Dr. X last perform this procedure? Who observed it? Was Dr. X’s state license verified at the primary source? When did Dr. X complete training on the surgical robot?
“The surveyor was so impressed with how quickly and easily I found the information, he shifted his focus from credentialing to peer review after 15 minutes rather than the usual 60 minutes,” says Schindlbeck.
Before using web-based symplr Provider solutions, Schindlbeck and her staff pulled the files of the physicians to be reviewed by the Joint Commission surveyor and transported them from the storage areas to the meeting rooms in wheeled carts. Schindlbeck and the surveyor sat side by side to review the paper files, while the rest of the participants had to follow along without the visual support.
“Those files represent an individual’s entire history and career. Thanks to symplr Provider and its digital files, security and privacy are no longer a concern,” says Schindlbeck, who notes the surveyor also appreciated the on-site and cloud-based Cactus backups of all files. “The surveyor recommends symplr Provider because an existing, proven tool makes more sense than creating your own from scratch — so we’re now considering symplr Quality for peer review.”
Out of all the vendors that NKCH’s IT department regularly uses, its members report that symplr Provider is the very best at quick, efficient support.
“That’s our medical staff department’s experience, but to hear it from our IT department, which works with multiple vendors across the entire hospital, really says something positive about symplr,” says Schindlbeck of NKCH’s three-decade-long relationship with symplr. “I feel strongly that symplr Provider truly is the best available.”