The Changing Face of Medical Staff Services
Shortages among physicians and other healthcare professionals are impacting healthcare organizations across the nation. But that doesn’t mean that healthcare organizations have to sacrifice quality of care. Credentialing cements a physician or other healthcare provider’s knowledge and skills so a healthcare organization can make the right personnel and hiring decisions. In the face of these staffing shortages, medical services professionals (MSPs) often stand between uncredentialed physicians and other healthcare workers and patient safety.
MSPs are facing disruption of their own. With new regulations, requirements and processes being put in place at healthcare organizations across the country and the rapidly changing healthcare environment, MSPs increasingly provide the essential assessments and credentialing oversight that organizations need to ensure the highest quality patient care. “As the industry changes, certification is going to become the norm, not the exception,” says Judy Gaman, CEO at Executive Medicine of Texas.
Here are some of the changes and challenges that medical services professionals will face in the coming decade.
Data is transforming every industry, but it is particularly important in the standardization of healthcare, especially for MSPs. Credentialing records are easier to track and maintain in a digital environment. This makes the job of the MSP easier and contributes to better patient safety. “Small practices and hospitals used to credential their own doctors and medical professionals as they came through,” Gaman says. “Now we're seeing a big shift toward shared information via databases.”
Databases contribute to credentialing standardization, which has a positive effect on patient care. And recording credentialed medical personnel in a shared database adds an extra layer of protection for an organization’s patient population, Gaman says, because it prevents medical practitioners with poor reputations from “hospital hopping” from one facility to another. “The databases provide a way for MSPs to track problematic personnel,” she says.
Telehealth presents an interesting challenge for MSPs. “In telehealth, you don’t always have the same checks and balances as a traditional care setting,” Gaman says. “The risk to patient safety could be high.” This could increase the need for credentialing across the board, not just in a traditional care setting.
As healthcare becomes increasingly digitally driven, it’s vital to ensure that medical practitioners are certified in medical technology. The stakes for digital literacy are high: One mischecked box, for example, can have a significant impact on a patient’s health. All medical professionals will have to be credentialed and certified in new and emerging medical technology. “There’s no room for misinterpretation,” Gaman says. MSPs will be charged with developing new safeguards for healthcare professionals practicing in digital environments.
Physician shortages are already severe and are only predicted to worsen. “Primary care shortages are projected to be upwards of 33,000 caregivers and doctors by 2030,” says Dan Pelino, co-founder and President of Everyone Matters and author of “Trusted Healers.” This presents some challenges for MSPs and solidifies the need for credentialing. And as physicians age, recredentialing ensures that they have maintained the capacity to remain in their positions. “We’re seeing older surgeons, and that can result in impairments in hearing and vision,” Gaman says. Recredentialing and databases can protect organizations and patients from an aging physician population.
On the other hand, physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) are becoming more common. They can do much that a doctor does, but with less extensive and less expensive education. Many organizations will be hiring these professionals to counterbalance the physician shortage. “As more and more PAs and NPs join healthcare organizations, it will be important for MSPs to layer in credentialing for these positions,” Gaman says. Layering in support from behavioral health practitioners can also mitigate the effects of the physician shortage, Pelino suggests. This would require further credentialing for mental health practitioners as well as physicians, PAs and NPs.
It’s also critical that HR understands that the role of the MSP is evolving and in flux. “HR has to support MSPs during their evolution or they'll end up hurting the organization,” Gaman says. “HR can support MSPs by sending them to the seminars to keep them abreast and understanding of changes in the field.”
Anticipating the changing face of medical staff services can provide MSPs a blueprint for future decisions that helps them accomplish their goal of safeguarding patient safety. As the healthcare industry changes, it’s vital to consider the ways that MSPs can play a key role in helping healthcare organizations adapt to the evolving landscape.