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Physicians Practice Pearls: Licensed to Skill


Are your employees properly credentialed? They should be.

Physicians earn medical degrees and are licensed. Nurses are registered. Many nonphysician providers are also certified in their fields. This telegraphs a level of expertise to the world that they know what they’re doing. Should you extend this thinking to the rest of your staff?


The structure of your operation is one sign of quality. Licensed, registered, and credentialed employees bring value and competency to the practice. Some organizations offering certification programs that could benefit your staff and your practice include the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, the American College of Medical Practice Executives, the American Academy of Professional Coders, and the American Association of Medical Assistants

Certification lasts for a finite amount of time, and varies within each specialty. The rules can be tricky, so read the fine print to avoid a lapse in credentials. For example, a certified physician assistant can use the “PA-C” for six years, providing she keeps up with renewal requirements, where every two years she must log at least 100 hours of CME training, submit a certification maintenance fee, and some maintenance paperwork. All must be done in a timely fashion, or goodbye certification. At the six-year mark, she must pass a recertification exam to maintain her “PA-C” designation.

Your practice itself can earn certification or accreditation as well. This is worthwhile, as a credentialed practice brings leverage and marketability at all levels. The National Council on Quality Assurance (NCQA) sponsors a Physician Practice Connections certification program, which focuses on the use of information technology to enhance patient care. The NCQA also offers three practice recognition programs for patient-centered back pain, diabetes, and heart/stroke treatment, as well as a Physician Organization Certification Program. Here, practices can become certified in three areas: quality management and improvement; utilization management; and credentialing and recredentialing.

Other credentialing bodies exist for practices, such as The Joint Commission and the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care. The key to success isn’t just doing things right; it's documenting that you are doing them right.

Alternatively, consider another approach to expertise recognition with the Malcolm Baldrige Award, a well-respected national prize awarded by the president of the United States to all types of business, education, and healthcare ventures for outstanding performance in several areas. This award does tend to go to large organizations, but hey, you can’t win if you don’t play.

You and your employees work hard to make your practice the best it can be. Getting recognized will only serve to further this worthy cause.

Owen Dahl, FACHE, CHBC, is a nationally recognized medical practice management consultant with more than 24 years of experience in consulting for and managing medical practices. He can be reached at 281 419 4037 or odahl@houston.rr.com. This article originally appeared in the September 2007 issue of Physicians Practice.

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