Centralized VA Credentialing & Privileging — why it matters to VA provider recruitment and retention?

By Ashwini Zenooz, MD

Many hospital systems already use centralized Credentialing and Privileging (C&P) and it works. I’ve been credentialed and privileged at various Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and academic hospitals at least two dozen times. It is either a long or painful process, or sometimes both. It’s no one’s fault, it is just the norm that medical facilities must take the time to ensure that a practicing physician has the credentials required to provide care and verify that there are no known quality of care issues.

Credentialing verifies a healthcare practitioner’s education, training, work experience, and license, before a provider starts practicing at a hospital. Privileging means granting approval for a provider to perform a specific procedure/s based on documented competence in the area in which privileges are requested. This process is usually done every two years at VA. VA is very thorough with this process, but the problem is that C&P is currently performed at each individual VA hospital.

Since VA is a federal institution, providers are required to hold a license in any one state in the U.S., whereas community providers must be licensed in each state where they practice. So why not streamline the process especially as VA attempts to become more agile. Providers should be able to transfer from one VA system to another, provide care across the large integrated healthcare system made up of 150+ hospitals seamlessly. Currently, staffers are struggling to keep up with the demands of physician onboarding where the process may take several months. During this waiting period, providers may be lured away by other offers and VA loses another potential recruit. Consolidation of the C&P process eliminates redundancies, improves efficiency, reduces cost and standardizes quality.

Within the next few weeks, we will elect a new President who will set the priorities for a new VA and its administration. I would hope that streamlining the credentialing processes is part of the VA transformation agenda. This is paramount to getting and keeping exemplary clinicians in VA.

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Dr. Ashwini Zenooz was most recently a Brookings Congressional Health Policy Fellow at the United States Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. She was previously a senior physician at the Department of Veterans Affairs and clinical faculty at Stanford Medical School.