New Item: Why LTC facilities should prioritize more rigorous facility access protocols – McKnight’s Long Term Care News

Kimberly Fox

Long-term care facilities are expected not only to deliver outstanding care to their residents but to ensure the safety and security of everyone in their buildings. One aspect of successfully achieving these important goals is adopting a robust technology-enabled vendor credentialing and visitor management program that helps ensure facility visitors have been badged and vendor representatives are credentialed. 

Historically, vendor credentialing and visitor management programs have been somewhat of an afterthought in the long-term care industry. In fact, according to our internal data, 56% of health systems surveyed don’t enforce credentialing in their non-acute facilities. But there are several timely factors that make a visitor and vendor management program particularly critical for long-term care facilities. 

First, in this time of COVID-19, residents of long-term care facilities may be immunocompromised. Second, healthcare as an industry is grappling with the rise in incidents of workplace violence and the challenges it presents healthcare professionals. This puts pressure on long-term care leaders to implement more stringent vendor credentialing and visitor management programs that define facility access policies and promote safer spaces. 

Third is the rapidly proliferating and shifting healthcare regulatory landscape and the associated complexity of maintaining vendor credentialing compliance. Hospitals and health systems are often subject to hefty financial and reputational penalties for compliance failures. For instance, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, penalties for hiring sanctioned entities or individuals can be substantial, in many cases exceeding several million dollars. 

These penalties have been a cautionary tale prompting health systems to adopt robust, technology-driven visitor and vendor management programs. Long-term care facilities might likewise choose to follow the lead of their acute care peers to implement prescriptive visitor and vendor management programs to help them remain compliant in an increasingly complex regulatory environment.  

For too long, vendor credentialing and visitor management programs were inefficient and highly manual. But fortunately, modern technology-enabled solutions are available today. These solutions help reduce the paperwork and manual effort of managing an effective visitor and vendor management program and provide the capabilities to help long-term care facilities create safer and more compliant environments. 

Long-term care facilities vs. other health systems

It is important to note some nuanced differences between the way long-term care facilities operate compared to a hospital. While visitors are often greeted at a long-term care facility’s front desk, the check-in process may, for example, only require a signature or health attestation, as opposed to a more comprehensive photo badging station check-in. 

In long-term care facilities, there may be an initial or monthly accounts payable screening with vendors before they can receive direct payment from a facility. However, this screening process may focus on ensuring the vendor is not on a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) or the OIG exclusion or sanction list. And vendors that don’t receive direct payment from a long-term care facility may not be required to pass any credentialing requirements at all. 

Let’s take a closer look at how modern vendor credentialing and visitor management programs can support infection control and facility safety efforts.

Infection control 

Long-term care providers must ensure their vulnerable residents are as safe as possible from infections, whether from COVID-19 or other communicable diseases.

Long-term care facilities can utilize kiosks with options that include wellness screening and contactless temperature checks for vendors and visitors, as well as integrated QR code technology for vendor credentialing to help manage their infection control processes. Generally, these kiosks should be placed in areas with the highest visibility and foot traffic to help ensure visitors and vendors are properly checked in.

Additionally, a technology-enabled vendor credentialing and visitor management program can support issues such as uploading and reviewing immunization record documentation for vendor representatives – automating the process so a vendor’s vaccination status can be efficiently reviewed and reported over time. 

Facility safety 

A recent survey found nearly three in five Americans (60%) reported being concerned about the safety and security of loved ones in a hospital or medical facility. Identifying potential bad actors is one way to help maintain the safety and security of those in long-term care facilities. 

For instance, registered vendor organizations and their representatives should undergo sanction checks as part of a credentialing compliance program. These go well beyond simple monthly accounts payable checks to identify vendors or vendor representatives that have appeared on sanction lists, exclusion lists or criminal background checks. Issues could range from fraudulent billing practices to violence or drug diversion and abuse. Advanced kiosks like the ones mentioned earlier include capabilities to screen individuals and flag individuals identified by a hospital who may pose a threat from entering a facility. 

In conclusion, concerns surrounding resident and staff safety and improved infection control are critical issues for the long-term care industry. Facilities can help address these important concerns with strategies including a more prescriptive and technology-driven approach to vendor credentialing and visitor management. Doing so will help organizations reduce the risk of infection, mitigate potential workplace violence issues and help stay compliant with shifting regulatory requirements. 

Kimberly Fox is currently part of the Vendormate Credentialing team and is a Senior Compliance Solutions Specialist at Global Healthcare Exchange. As a Senior CSS, she works directly with hospitals and other healthcare providers who utilize Vendormate for vendor credentialing and compliance. Kimberly has a diverse background in healthcare and enjoys engaging with hospitals and others who oversee credentialing and compliance programs.

The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.

Source: Ross Arrowsmith