How to Standardize Your Medical Staff Services Organization

Director of Credentialing Programs

Medical staff services (MSS) professionals will continue to face several changes and challenges moving into 2021. Having different standards for privileging and credentialing at each healthcare facility complicates matters. Streamlining and standardizing your MSS processes could result in increased efficiency, improved patient outcomes and more consistent data across your healthcare system.

Standardized MSS functions, such as privileging, credentialing and case review, create a better experience for providers operating across locations within your healthcare system. Having a consistent standard also demonstrates a commitment to a higher standard of patient care. Several large health systems, like Intermountain Healthcare, have seen great success in making the change. 

Here’s how to assess the outcomes of standardization and put the process into motion at your health system.

Leave Room for Autonomy

Benefits of standardizing MSS functions include a decreased workload, more efficient processes, greater clarity in decision-making and minimized legal liability. But standardization requires nuance, too. “If your perception is that standardization is going to give you a great benefit without weighing any need for autonomy,” says Dr. Mark Smith, a Partner at HG Healthcare Consultants, “then you need to recognize that and fight for that to be maintained.” Decide which MSS functions would benefit from standardization and where your healthcare facilities require autonomy. 

If your health system spans urban and rural locations, for instance, their access to resources may be unequal. To accommodate the differences, you may need to build flexibility and autonomy into your processes. For example, there’s some debate about the maintenance of certification requirements. While urban hospitals may have enough staff and resources for physicians to devote time to prepare for and take the exam, physicians at rural health facilities may not.

Establish Leadership Buy-In

The most common source of pushback against standardization is local MSS personnel. Overcoming that resistance requires buy-in from physician leaders at individual locations. “You need to have the backing of the physician leadership that can overcome that resistance locally,” Smith says. He recommends initiating regular meetings or tapping into existing ones to bring together physician leaders across locations. 

Allow these leaders to function as a design committee for standardized processes, ensuring both ownership of the process and voices from each location. Physician leaders can become ambassadors to their location for the rollout. They’re well-positioned to balance the tension between standardization and individual autonomy based on each location’s needs and resources.

Lay the Groundwork for Standardization

Before attempting to standardize MSS functions, it’s a good idea to consult an outside facilitator. Privileging, credentialing and other MSS functions are incredibly complex, and an expert can guide you through them. “When you try to do some of that internally, unless you have really good expertise, you usually wind up either spending too much time or too much money, or a combination of both,” Smith says. Consulting an expert with a proven track record increases your chances of successfully implementing the first time.

Be mindful of your different software options and how they operate before going through the standardization process. If you go through the entire process of standardizing your processes before evaluating technology options, Smith says, you run the risk of your software options not supporting your new processes. The system that runs your database, for example, may require specific data inputs. If you know what is needed beforehand, you can work that information into your standardization. A consultant will advise you on your tech options as you standardize your processes.

Standardizing MSS functions at your organization is a complex process and shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. It’s vital to first assess the benefits against the risks, establish buy-in and ownership from key players, and evaluate how your infrastructure might need to adapt to support standardization. Taking these steps will ensure a final product that balances standardization with autonomy, allowing your organization to evolve with the times.