Telemedicine has experienced exponential growth in recent years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic (it’s expected to increase a total of 64.3% in the US this year). This explosive growth is making quality medical care more accessible to more people, but another interesting phenomenon is occurring: State borders no longer limit medical practice.
While this change in telemedicine offers convenience and accessibility in what are often difficult situations, it does come with challenges. It has complicated compliance requirements with evolving credentialing criteria. Organization is key, and scheduling software can help you keep track of all the aspects of licensing for your staff.
Credentialing in the healthcare field
In a nutshell, credentialing is the process of verifying, reviewing and examining a worker’s certifications, professional licenses, experience, education and other attributes to ensure they meet all requirements under local, state and federal laws.
Credentialing is a protective measure not only for the practitioner but also for the organization and patients. It protects the organization from potential legal action and guarantees that practitioners have the qualifications, training and skills to do the job they are hired to do. It also protects patients by making sure they receive high-quality healthcare from prepared, qualified providers.
Surge staffing in the COVID-19 crisis
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, hospitals are finding their patient load doubled or even tripled — and they lack adequate staffing to keep up with the overflow. Surge staffing is used to combat this problem. But with the nationwide shortage of nurses, physicians and other healthcare workers, surge staffing may already be a necessity.
In most cases, a surge staff is not part of the permanent staff. They are only called when they are needed, so it’s vital that each facility maintain a list of healthcare workers who have agreed to be on the surge staff. This must be updated regularly, including all credentials, so that when extra providers are needed, there’s no last-minute scramble to ensure they are credentialed properly.
Medical and nursing students can also be part of your surge staffing. They can be trained to fill specific roles or perform set tasks such as documentation or physician assistance. They’re great for need-based deployment in medical facilities associated with their schools, and training is typically quick because they already know the material.
With personnel coming from several different areas with different skills and needs, organized scheduling is vital. Intrigma’s scheduling software has hundreds of customizable features that will simplify and streamline your staff coordination across all sources and facilities.
State licensing and waivers
COVID-19 brought telemedicine to mainstream healthcare as people avoided gatherings for fear of contracting the virus. This virtually erased state lines, and doctors soon were able to practice in other states without leaving the office. This opened up yet another credentialing issue.
Each state has its own standards for credentialing healthcare workers, which presents specific barriers for doctors trying to meet the needs of patients in other states. Under normal circumstances, it wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, but in the current climate, there are simply not enough doctors and healthcare workers to care for a steadily increasing population of patients.
A handful of doctors are choosing to be credentialed in all 50 states, but changes are occurring that may make this unnecessary. Most states are responding by making regulatory changes, which fall into three rather broad categories:
- License reciprocity and waivers. Instead of requiring a physician to have local credentials in order to treat patients either in person or virtually, states are agreeing to accept credentials from other states. If the healthcare professional holds a valid medical license in another state, it will still be accepted in the state where the patient lives.
- Expedited emergency licensing. Quite a few states have taken this stance and instituted temporary changes to their licensing regulations. They will grant temporary emergency licenses as opposed to reciprocating or waiving the restrictions barring healthcare professionals from crossing state lines to treat patients.
- Expanded telehealth coverage. Most states have adopted some form of expanded telehealth coverage even if they are already taking the two measures above. This is a much broader step, and each state’s plan looks a little different. Reimbursement plans, waivers for co-pays and deductibles, and access to telemed for patients at home are some of the more common plan components.
These changes make it easier for doctors to treat patients and easier for patients to gain access to the healthcare they need. But they lead to a veritable nightmare for managers and staffing coordinators, who have to keep up with all the credentials for everyone on their staff while also tracking each state’s requirements and regulations. This is where the true benefits of credentialing software really shine.
The enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact
In late 2017, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) coordinated a compact that made it easier for traveling nurses to treat patients who live in other states. On January 19, 2018, the Nurse Licensure Compact was officially implemented.
So far, 32 states have signed the compact into law, and other states are expected to follow soon. Simply put, the compact allows nurses to hold one license but also practice in states other than the one that issued the license. Given the current climate, this capability is crucial to sufficient patient care.
Scheduling software: Organize shifts for a diversified staff
The challenges that managers and staff schedulers face right now are unprecedented in the United States. As we trudge forward, trying to manage the pandemic, many are overwhelmed by the challenges not only for staffing but also for overall organization. Staff may be located in different states and keeping it all in order can seem like a daunting task.
Scheduling software like Intrigma’s Efficient Scheduler for Physicians and Efficient Scheduler for Nurses help your organization keep all its staffing information in order and easily accessible, from licenses to work schedules. It saves time, money and frustration. All the information you need for your staff at your facility is at your fingertips.
COVID-19 is rapidly changing the face of healthcare, especially telemedicine. Finding innovative solutions can make it much easier to manage your staff. Intrigma offers several specialized, customizable tools designed to meet increased patient volumes during this time as well as manage staff practicing across state lines.
To learn more about customized scheduling software solutions, contact Intrigma to discuss your healthcare scheduling needs. If you would like to start your own Free Edition account with Intrigma (no credit card required), click here.