As a medical practice, it’s important to make sure all healthcare providers undergo the credentialing process to ensure problem-free billing processes.
But what is credentialing in medical billing, and how does one affect the other? Medical credentialing refers to the process of verifying and assessing the qualifications, experience and credentials of healthcare professionals, such as physicians, nurses, therapists and other medical professionals.
This process is essential for ensuring that healthcare providers meet the standards required by insurance companies, government agencies and healthcare organizations to provide medical services and bill for them appropriately.
Even if your medical staff or office has already gone through the medical credentialing process, there are many scenarios where you may need to go through the process again. Here’s what you need to know about credentialing as a critical part of the medical billing process and what types of services can ensure you’re compliant.
Who Approves Medical Credentialing?
It may feel like a scene right out of The Wizard of Oz, with those orchestrating the intricate process of medical credentialing akin to the enigmatic wizards behind the curtain, determining who enters the realms of insurance networks and healthcare organizations.
Various entities are involved in the medical credentialing process, from insurance companies to government agencies and healthcare organizations themselves.
Insurance companies have their own credentialing processes to ensure that healthcare providers meet their standards and requirements for participation in their networks. Providers must submit credentialing applications to each insurance company with which they wish to be contracted. The insurance company’s credentialing committee or department reviews the application, verifies the provider’s qualifications and makes a decision on whether to approve or deny credentialing.
Government healthcare programs such as Medicare and Medicaid also require healthcare providers to undergo credentialing. Providers must meet specific criteria set by these programs to participate. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) oversees the credentialing process for Medicare providers, while state Medicaid agencies handle credentialing for Medicaid providers.
Even hospitals, clinics and other healthcare organizations often have their own credentialing processes for providers who practice within their facilities. This process typically involves verifying the provider’s qualifications, reviewing their credentials, checking references and assessing their competency to practice at the facility.
How Does Credentialing Impact Medical Billing?
Credentialing plays a crucial role in medical billing at several types of healthcare facilities, whether you’re a medical clinic, urgent care facility, emergency room, hospital, surgical center, specialty practice, mental health clinic or dental office.
- Insurance Reimbursement: Insurance companies often require healthcare providers to be credentialed before they can submit claims for reimbursement. Without proper credentialing, claims may be denied or delayed, leading to financial losses for the medical practice.
- Network Participation: Credentialing is often a prerequisite for joining insurance networks or becoming an in-network provider. Being part of these networks can increase patient referrals and streamline the billing process by allowing for direct electronic claims submission.
- Compliance: Credentialing ensures that healthcare providers meet certain standards of education, training and licensure required by regulatory bodies and insurance companies. Compliance with these standards is essential for avoiding penalties, fines or legal issues related to improper billing practices.
- Patient Trust and Satisfaction: Patients often feel more confident in receiving care from credentialed providers, knowing that they have undergone a rigorous evaluation process. This can lead to increased patient satisfaction and loyalty to the medical practice.
- Efficiency and Accuracy: By maintaining up-to-date credentialing for all providers, medical billing staff can ensure that claims are processed accurately and efficiently. This reduces the likelihood of claim denials, rejections or delays, leading to faster payment and improved cash flow for the practice.
Credentialing serves as the cornerstone of a well-functioning billing and coding system, not only safeguarding financial stability but also fostering patient confidence and a more efficient delivery of quality care.
When Does A Medical Practice Need Credentialing?
To bill insurance companies for services rendered to patients covered by their plans, healthcare providers must be credentialed with those insurance companies. Without proper credentialing, the practice may face delays or denials in reimbursement. If you’re a new medical practice, this is an important step in maximizing your revenue cycle management.
However, there are other scenarios where you may need to begin the medical credentialing process, even if you are an already established practice. In fact, in many cases, credentialing is not a one-time process but rather an ongoing requirement. Here are some considerations:
- Re-credentialing: After initially credentialing a healthcare provider, many insurance companies and healthcare organizations require periodic re-credentialing to ensure that the provider’s qualifications and credentials remain current and in good standing. This re-credentialing process typically occurs every one to three years, although the exact interval can vary.
- License Renewal: Healthcare providers must renew their professional licenses or certifications periodically, which may require updating their credentials with relevant authorities. Failure to maintain a valid license could result in the provider losing their credentialing status.
- Changes in Practice or Circumstances: If a healthcare provider experiences significant changes in their practice, such as moving to a new location, hiring a new provider, changing specialties or obtaining additional certifications, they may need to undergo credentialing or re-credentialing to reflect these changes.
- Changes in Regulations or Requirements: Changes in regulations or requirements imposed by insurance companies, government agencies or healthcare organizations may require updates to a healthcare provider’s credentials. Staying on top of these changes is essential to maintain compliance.
- Insurance Network Participation: If you participate in insurance networks, you may need to undergo re-credentialing periodically to remain in-network and continue billing for services covered by those plans. If your practice plans to accept additional insurances, you’ll likely need to be credentialed through any new insurance providers as well.
If your medical office plans to be affiliated with a hospital or other healthcare facility, you may need to obtain privileges to practice at that facility. Credentialing is necessary to obtain and maintain these privileges.
While medical credentialing is not necessarily an annual process for every healthcare provider, it is typically an ongoing requirement to ensure that providers maintain their qualifications and credentials in accordance with industry standards and regulatory requirements.
What Steps Does Medical Credentialing Involve?
Credentialing in medical billing refers to the process of verifying and assessing the qualifications, experience and credentials of healthcare providers. Some key aspects of medical credentialing include the verification of:
- Education and training from a medical school or other healthcare training institution
- Medical licenses
- Professional experience
- Board certification
- Malpractice insurance
- Background checks
- Peer references
Here’s a sample step-by-step guide of what the credentialing process may look like for your practice:
Gather the required information needed to begin the process. For example, you will need providers’ medical degrees, licenses, certifications, training records, work history, malpractice insurance and any other credentials or qualifications. It’s also a good idea at this stage to gather peer references and recommendations, which may be required as part of the application process.
Contact the credentialing organizations. These may include state medical boards for medical licensure verification, insurance companies if you wish to become in-network providers or Medicare and Medicaid if you plan to participate in these federal programs. Inquire about the process and what is needed and when.
Submit your applications once you have the information above. Keep in mind that each organization has its own application forms and requirements. Ensure that all of the information you include is accurate and up-to-date. Don’t forget to pay the application fees.
Wait for an approval or denial. The credentialing committee will review the application, verify the information and make a decision whether to approve or deny your credentialing application. If your application is approved, you can begin practicing and billing services. If denied, the next step is to address any deficiencies or reasons for denial.
Report any changes. Credentialing is not a one-time process. Healthcare providers must maintain their credentials by keeping licenses and certifications up-to-date, renewing malpractice insurance and reporting any changes in their practice such as address changes or disciplinary actions.
Re-credential when it’s time. You may have to undergo the re-credentialing process, which involves updating your information and undergoing the verification process again. This typically occurs every two to three years to ensure ongoing compliance.
Who Can Help With Medical Credentialing?
Medical credentialing is a time-consuming process that requires meticulous attention to detail. Managing the intricacies of credentialing can be a challenging task, especially for busy practices.
A trusted medical billing and coding company that provides credentialing services can be an invaluable resource. These companies specialize in handling the administrative aspects of medical credentialing, allowing you to focus on patient care and managing your practice.
- Streamline the credentialing process by gathering and organizing all the required documentation, minimizing the chances of delays or denials
- Submit the application and necessary documentation, as well as follow up with insurers to facilitate timely insurance network participation
- Offer ongoing maintenance and updates, proactively tracking expiration dates, renewals and changes in provider information
- Save you time and resources that can be better allocated to patient care
- Prevent errors through attention to detail, prevent common mistakes that could lead to credentialing delays or denials
The best billing and coding companies will not only work to gain your trust and confidence but also offer customized solutions tailored to the unique needs of your medical practice. This includes your type of practice and location; specific credentialing requirements may be based on your specialty and location.
With the right company, you can confidently navigate the complexities of the credentialing process while receiving ongoing maintenance to ensure the continued credentialing of your practice.