Telemedicine has been around for quite a while now. However, this aspect of healthcare saw significant boosts during the COVID-19 era when many healthcare providers started to provide online medical services to their patients. Thus, the telemedicine community grew a lot in numbers and business opportunities.
This growth also challenged healthcare providers to modify their licensing and credentialing system to continue providing seamless patient care services. The patients were concerned about the type of care provider they would interact with during these telemedicine calls. Distinguishing a good practitioner from many unqualified ones became a concern for many patients.
Thus, the credentialing process for telemedicine services had to come into practice to address both these concerns of the hospitals and patients. Today, we are going to talk about the impact of credentialing processes in telemedicine services. We will also discuss the requirements needed to go through this credentialing process. We will also delve into the changes that had to be brought about to make the credentialing process workable and seamless within the telemedicine industry.
What is Telemedicine Credentialing?
Telemedicine credentialing is the process of legitimizing and standardizing the caretakers and care providers who are going to perform remote care activities. Remote care is an important part of today’s digital world, and healthcare facilities must ensure that the doctors they are recruiting to help the patients remotely are qualified to do their duties properly. This is where telemedicine credentialing comes into play.
Telemedicine credentialing is the same process as normal on-site credentialing within healthcare facilities. The doctor has to go through a verification process where all his details, including his degrees, qualifications, certificates, licenses, and references, are verified using proper authority channels. This ensures that the doctor is up to the mark and can perform remote care activities to cure the patients of their ailments.
How does Telemedicine change the Credentialing process?
As we have already discussed, the credentialing process for telemedicine services is the same as on-site credentialing. The only difference between telemedicine credentialing and the credentialing taking place for on-site doctors is the licensure of telemedicine doctors to provide out-of-state services. Whereas on-site doctors normally undergo credentialing in the state they are working in, doctors in charge of telemedicine services also have out-of-state licenses so that they can provide remote care to patients.
Here are some of the significant changes brought about by the rapid growth of telemedicine to the credentialing process:
1. Out-of-State Licensure
Telemedicine credentialing requires doctors to have out-of-state work licensures. This is because the doctors providing their services through telemedicine interact with patients from different US states. A doctor sitting in New York might be interacting with a patient from Wyoming. Thus, the doctors hailing from New York need to have a license to provide their services to patients in Wyoming.
This principle applies to other doctors aiming to provide remote services to patients from different states. Thus, to qualify for telemedicine services, the doctors must have licenses permitting them to work out of state.
2. Telemedicine and Telehealth Training
Doctors providing telemedicine services need to have appropriate training to be able to handle patients remotely. In addition to completing this training and having relevant skills, the doctors must also provide documentation proving that they have undergone the training programs. The doctors should also have a good know-how of different telemedicine programs.
During credentialing, the authorities check these training completion certificates and the doctors’ skills to perform telehealth services. Thus, doctors must ensure they complete these requirements before applying for the credentialing process. These certificates also differ from normal on-site credentialing processes, as on-site doctors don’t need such credentials.
3. Technology Assessments
The telemedicine care process uses various technological programs and software to provide remote care to patients. Healthcare providers offering these services, thus, should have fully functional technology apparatus within their facility.
These programs come with their own set of security measures to prevent data breaches. This data might include sensitive patient, doctor, and healthcare facility information. To avoid any data breaches, the healthcare facility using such software to provide remote care must ensure certain security measures are in place.
The credentialing process for telemedicine checks that the healthcare provider fulfills both of these requirements, i.e., they must have a fully functional technological system in place to provide remote care, and they must also use sophisticated security measures to make sure that the data contained within these programs is safe and secure from any attacks.
4. Patient Interaction Compliances
Remote care interactions and virtual visits of the doctors are different from normal in-house visits. These visits also have rules and regulations that must be followed. The issues of patient confidentiality, communication, and consent are also different. The doctor must ensure that he abides by all these rules and upholds these standards to the best of his abilities.
The credentialing process for telemedicine services checks the doctor’s ability to abide by these standards. And since these standards differ from in-house rules, the credentialing process also differs from the in-house credentialing processes.
Telemedicine Credentialing Requirements
Some of the major requirements needed for the credentialing process of doctors intending to provide telemedicine services are as follows:
- Board certifications and recommendations
- Professional work history
- Good references
- Appropriate training to provide telemedicine services
- Telemedicine technology know-how
- Efficiency in telemedicine software use
- Efficiency in handling electronic health records EHRs
- Compliance with federal and state telemedicine regulations
- License to provide out-of-state remote care
- Knowledge of patient data privacy, consent, and confidentiality
Adapting Medical Credentialing for Online Healthcare
With the world becoming digital through the internet and social media, the concept of telemedicine has become synonymous with providing healthcare through online platforms. These platforms might include any video call software, specific telemedicine programs, and audiovisual feedback systems. Both the doctors and the patients need an internet connection, and they can talk to each other through these platforms.
With the rising use of these online healthcare platforms, it has become important that the medical credentialing process be modified. Such changes need to be brought about that allow the patients to take advice from qualified and competent doctors without worrying about the risk of becoming incompetent practitioners. Measures should also be implemented to prevent any data leakages and privacy breaches of patients before, during, and after these online interactions with their doctors.
To address all these concerns, the following changes need to be made to the medical credentialing process so that online healthcare can become easy and accessible for patients:
- Online Telemedicine ability Assessments and Competency checks for Doctors: Ensure that the doctors have adequate knowledge of online meeting software and are qualified to deal with the technological aspects of visits. The credentialing process should check the ability of doctors.
- Remote Peer and Board Reviews: To ensure that the doctors are getting feedback and reviews from boards and their patients. This allows other patients to check the reviews and see whether the doctor meets their requirements. The credentialing process should include an analysis of these reviews to judge the doctor’s efficiency.
- Virtual Meeting Recordings: To keep a detailed record of doctor-patient interactions, which should be reviewed regularly. This allows the credentialing teams to ensure that the quality standards are being met and that the doctors are meeting the standards of adequate healthcare provision.
- Telemedicine Malpractice Record and Coverage: The healthcare facility should record online malpractice or adverse action history against the doctor. This allows the credentialing teams to figure out the character of the doctors they will employ for online interactions with patients and ensure that they are choosing the best ones for the job.
Telemedicine has, in many ways, revolutionized healthcare provision to patients. With the introduction of new and advanced software, this aspect of healthcare is growing daily. But like any other aspect of healthcare, telemedicine also requires a telemedicine-specific credentialing process to check the doctors employed to provide such services. The credentialing requirements are also different since the mode of patient care differs from in-house care provision. These requirements have brought several changes to the credentialing process. The doctors must be adequately trained for the job, have the know-how of the technology used in the process, and have appropriate reviews, licenses, and education to do the job appropriately. Work should be done to bring positive changes into this new aspect of healthcare so that quality care can be provided to remote areas of the world.