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Quality Interagency Coordination (QuIC) Task Force
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Federal Credentialing Program: Final Report

Summary

The Federal Credentialing Program (FCP) is a Federal effort developed to create a uniform set of data elements for credentialing of licensed Federal health care providers. FCP was initiated between the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Veterans Affairs (VA). Under the QuIC Task Force initiative, the FCP expanded access of its credentialing system to additional Federal users and disciplines.

Background

The initial FCP credentialing process was a prototype program limited to physicians and dentists practicing in the VA's Veterans Health Administration. The QuIC project was designed to explore FCP expansion to more Federal programs and other health care provider disciplines. The plan called first for:

  1. Identification of a core set of credentialing elements that meet national accreditation standards and are applicable to additional health care professions.
  2. Development of an electronic architecture that would accommodate incremental increase in Federal program participation.

The plan was to identify the required data elements and then incorporate them into the FCP electronic credentialing system, which consisted of the Web-based software, VetPro, and the credentials data bank. The system would then be made available to additional Federal agencies and programs that chose to participate in the FCP. Electronic screening and banking of credentials improves the efficiency, accuracy, and quality of the credentialing process and facilitates the sharing of credentialing information among participating Federal agencies.

QuIC Project Proposal

At the January 13, 1999, QuIC meeting the "Enhancing the Workforce Workgroup" presented to the QuIC Co-Chairs, the Secretaries for the Departments of Health and Human Services and Labor, an expansion project for the Federal Credentialing Program (FCP).

The objective of the proposed FCP/QuIC initiative was to expand the utility of the FCP/VetPro credentialing system to accommodate additional healthcare providers other than physicians and dentists and expand the program's use beyond that of the Department of Veterans Affairs with whom the program was jointly developed. The project was immediately and enthusiastically approved by the Secretaries.

QuIC Project Objectives

  1. Federal Credentials Workforce Forum:
  2. Evolve the FCP as a national Federal workforce forum for Federal credentials research and development in order to enhance access of providers to appropriate credentialing and patients to appropriately credentialed providers. In addition to issues involving national accreditation guidelines, the FCP will foster discussion in areas such as tele-medicine and tele-health, emergency medical preparedness, national and international standards for credentials data transmission, ethics, etc.

  3. National Credentials Guidelines:
  4. Identification of common guidelines for healthcare provider credentials and credentialers to enhance expansion of FCP services to additional healthcare disciplines.

  5. Credentials Data Bank:
  6. Development of a Web-based electronic credentials data bank to be managed by the Division of Quality Assurance, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), for all Federal programs wishing to participate in the FCP.

  7. Credentialing Software:
  8. Development of Web-based software to guide the credentialing of Federal organizations participating in the FCP. The FCP software (VetPro) was to be downloadable from the Web by any participating Federal organization and expandable to accommodate additional healthcare professionals.

Results

Federal Credentials Workforce Forum. Maintenance of the FCP has been established through Annual Working Meetings and Colloquiums. Since the QuIC project began, the FCP, in partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs, has convened and reported back to the QuIC:

  • The "Demonstration Project Working Meeting of the Federal Credentialing Program" in Albuquerque, New Mexico, July 11-14, 1999.
  • The "Federal Credentialing Program Working Meeting" in Arlington Virginia, July 9-13, 2000.
  • The "FCP Summer Colloquium—Expanding our Growing Partnership," July 27, 2001.

National Credentials Guidelines. The FCP developed a core set of credentialing requirements and established standard credentialing guidelines for all Federal healthcare providers participating in the FCP credentialing system. This was first accomplished for physicians and dentists. Workgroups were then convened in Nursing, Pharmacy, Occupational Therapy, and Dietetics to compare their professional credentialing requirements and practices to those of physicians and dentists.

These disciplines were chosen as they are clinically based and are often already included in the Medical Staff Bylaws of many HHS facilities including several hospitals of the Indian Health Service. Furthermore, the Chief Professional Officers and/or the primary professional organizations for these disciplines were readily available.

As an interim step, prototype credentialing software was developed for the additional disciplines. Currently, the Web-based interface to the credentials data bank, VetPro, is used to credential all clinically based healthcare providers. This accomplished FCP program expansion and enhances workforce access to the FCP program by additional healthcare disciplines.

Credentials Data Bank. The credentials data bank became operational on March 1, 2001. Currently it serves all clinical facilities belonging to the Department of Veteran Affairs. Key Federal representatives in the fields of medicine, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, dietetics, and occupational therapy, with appropriate representation from several different Federal departments and the VA, worked together to develop and establish this Web-based FCP credentials data bank.

The Internet service provider (ISP) is the Center for Information Technology (CIT) at the National Institutes of Health. Technical support to develop and maintain the system is provided by the CIT, the Departments of Health and Human Services and Veterans Affairs and by outside contractors.

The FCP is managed by the Division of Quality Assurance (DQA), Bureau of Health Professions, HRSA. The FCP is available to all Federal organizations. Organizations that have recently joined the FCP partnership in addition to the VA include:

  • Immigration and Naturalization Service.
  • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
  • The Office of Emergency Preparedness.
  • U. S. Public Health Service.

The system has enrolled 15,313 VA providers as of August 2001.

Credentialing Software. Known as "VetPro," credentialing software refers to the vetting of professionals in healthcare. It became operational on March 1, 2001. This Web-based interface to the credentials databank was designed and developed in partnership with the VA. Currently more than 15,000 VA professionals have been enrolled in the FCP using VetPro. Technical assistance in the form of user manuals and orientation are available for all new users of the system. Participation in the system requires Internet access, a Pentium-based CPU with a 21" monitor and a simple scanner. A new user orientation will be hosted by DQA this November at its new campus in Rockville. All Federal providers of health care are invited to participate in the program.

Conclusion

As outlined above, the program has successfully met all objectives. The FCP's Web-based credentialing system consisting of the Web-based software (VetPro) and the credentials databank is now in production. As of September 1, 2001, all 22 Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISNs) representing 173 VA clinical facilities are using the system, and there are more than 15,000 VA practitioners enrolled. This pace is accelerating and ultimately they expect to enroll more than 45,000 physicians and other health care providers.

The system is managed by the Division of Quality Assurance, HRSA, and hosted by the Center for Information Technology (CIT) at NIH. The program is self-supporting; to date, the VA has provided close to $4 million toward this effort.

In recognition of the VA contributions, championed by Dr. Thomas L. Garthwaite, Under Secretary of Health for the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), Veterans Health Administration (VHA), Surgeon General David Satcher has selected Dr. Garthwaite to receive the Surgeon General's Medallion. The medallion will be awarded for his "...outstanding policy leadership, steadfast support and visionary direction" on behalf of the FCP.

We would like to remind folks that new agencies are encouraged to participate in the FCP and will be accepted as quickly as possible, in the order that they apply. The FCP receives no appropriation from Congress; it is fully self-supporting and recovers all operating costs through reimbursement from participating agencies. This reimbursement is used to recover expenses for the ongoing operation. For more information please contact Mr. James Baughman or Dr. Stephen Permison at (301) 443-2300.

September 14, 2001


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