Medical Staff Services: 3 Key Trends for 2023

Director of Healthcare Solutions

The COVID-19 pandemic has influenced how and where the medical staff services industry operated and how credentialing professionals perform their work.

As we look to 2023, as well as National Medical Staff Service Awareness Week from Nov. 6 to 12, medical staff services face unresolved issues related to how healthcare employers handle remote work arrangements, telemedicine implementation, and physician competencies verifications.

1. Reevaluating Remote Work

Medical staff services professionals act as liaisons between healthcare administrators and medical staff within a facility and handle credentialing duties. When the pandemic began, many facilities chose to have medical staff services work remotely to reduce the risk of coronavirus spread.

Nearly three years later, healthcare organizations are considering whether to keep medical staff services in remote positions or return them to an in-person presence, says Kathy Matzka, a writer, speaker, and consultant specializing in credentialing and professional staff issues.

Hospitals with smaller medical staff services departments “who went remote, those are the ones who are going to have to evaluate if they are losing that liasonship if they don’t have a warm body in the office every day,” Matzka says. 

2. Codifying Telemedicine

When COVID-19 was declared a national health emergency in March 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) waived medical staff credentialing requirements as part of its response. Many medical staff services professionals updated their processes as on-the-ground conditions encouraged them to embrace flexible solutions.

One example is the “credentialing by proxy” regulation, in which healthcare facilities can rely on credentialing and privileging decisions for telemedicine providers that are made by a distant hospital or telemedicine organization. Created in 2018, credentialing by proxy did not become popular until the pandemic forced healthcare organizations to adopt telemedicine quickly.

The federal waiver remains in place as part of the COVID-19 public health emergency declaration, which is scheduled to end in January 2023.

Medical staff services organizations should propose amendments to their organization’s bylaws to ensure that they comply with telemedicine practices and avoid liability risks, Matzka says.

3. Verifying Physician Competency

Medical staff services across the United States are also challenged in verifying physician competency, procedures and privileges, says Wendy Driskell, Senior Medical Staff Coordinator at Kaiser Downey Medical Center and Immediate Past President of the Greater Long Beach Chapter of the California Association of Medical Staff Services.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, most surgeries were canceled, which caused a backlog. As a result, physicians who must clock surgeries to pass national Joint Commission and facility competency requirements may have fallen behind.

“Now they’re coming through the cycle to be recredentialed, and they haven’t been working,” Driskell says. “So having the competency and being able to verify it has been a challenge.”

Gatekeepers of Patient Safety

Patient safety starts with medical staff services verifying that medical professionals have the credentials and competency to practice.

“Medical staff services is a unique, very niche profession because they serve a lot of very important functions down to the credentialing, the paperwork and mitigating risks through that, but really just being so collaborative and coaching and helping,” says Kate Conklin, Chief Compliance and Privacy Officer at GI Alliance. “We’re the gatekeepers of patient safety.”