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Electronic credentialing eases paper-burden

Dr Ian DobsonTHUNDER BAY, Ont. – The Northwestern Regional Electronic Credentialing System (NRECS), developed to standardize and automate professional staff credentialing in the region, has gone live with professional appointments this year after activating reappointments in 2013.

NRECS is the result of a four year long collaborative project involving 12 hospitals in the North West Local Health Integration Network.

Dr. Ian Dobson (pictured), Chief of Anesthesia at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, is responsible for reviewing the privileges and credentials of the members of his department on an annual basis.

“In the past this has generated a lot of paper and required multiple visits to the medical staff office to sign off on files as they are completed,” said Dr. Dobson. “The NRECS credentialing system now allows me to review all relevant information online and complete the process conveniently offsite with any compatible electronic device.

“Not only is this a fast and efficient way of reviewing a large number of staff, it is also much easier for me to complete my own annual application and enter all relevant documentation electronically. I sincerely believe that this will be the trend for all medically related communications and that the days of ponderous paperwork are coming to an end.”

“The NRECS credentialing system brings annual credentialing into the 21st century,” said Dr. Darryl Vance, Psychiatrist at SJCG. “Initial enrollment with NRECS involved collecting and saving PDF versions of my CV, CPSO registration and CMPA status to my computer, ready for upload to the NRECS website.

“A quick selfie taken with my mobile phone provided the fourth and final step. The step by step instructions at NRECS are easy to follow, and work well. I can now update my credentialing from any computer without searching anywhere for paper documentation, an envelope, or a fax machine.”

NRECS offers a process that presents the greatest benefits and impact to its users. “The e-credentialing system has made the application process for all professional staff easier to access and streamlines the background work which is done by the credentialing staff, after the application has been submitted,” Liane MacAskill, Manager of Medical Affairs at TBRHSC stated.

NRECS was developed and built in-house as a custom, secure web-based software application by the Informatics team at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC) and St Joseph’s Care Group (SJCG) in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

In addition to the staff that support and administer hospital credentials, there are approximately 1,000 + professional staff requiring credentialing each year, including physicians, dentists, nurse practitioners and midwives who are not employees of their respective institutions.

“During the phasing in of NRECS, it was clear that the new system was going to provide a lot of benefits and time saving to both providers and credentialing staff,” explained Gordon Jones, Systems Integration and Development Specialist who was part of the team developing and building NRECS at TBRHSC.

Functioning as a transparent and seamless software application, NRECS better supports administrative and professional staff in carrying out their respective credentialing duties. Operating on an “invitation only” basis that gives access to a central database of Professionals, NRECS allows credentialing staff access to common profile data of professionals once they have accepted new invitations to apply.

“I found the online NRECS intuitive to use and easy to complete. The power of the system really showed itself in subsequent years when I was able to quickly update any necessary fields with new information. Much better than the old paper-based system,” said Dr. Justin Jagger, Chief of Pediatrics at TBRHSC. Professionals, like Dr. Jagger, are required to complete their NRECS profile once as a user-friendly and efficient process that adheres to compliance requirements and capacity demands.

At the core of NRECS is a foundation of robust tools that enable efficient monitoring and managing of professional application statuses. Committee reports, audit reports, privilege lists and mail merge lists can be run from the central database of professionals allowing administrative staff the ability to access, organize, search and arrange critical information for the appointment and reappointment of Privileged staff.

An automated email system allows credentialing staff to keep abreast of application deadlines and review statuses, while an automated application workflow simultaneously releases approved applications for review at the next level of the credentialing process.

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