Transform your medical staff services department to support strategic goals

5 minutes

At one Midwest health system, the turnover rate for medical services professionals (MSPs) reached an all-time high. Department chairs and the medical group became frustrated as backlogs grew, temporary privileges skyrocketed, and initial application processing times increased to an average of 151 days.   

Meanwhile, delays in credentialing meant physicians and advanced practice professionals (APPs) couldn’t provide and bill for much-needed services. In addition, redundant workflows and inconsistent information in the credentialing software plagued the health system and continued to fuel existing burnout.  

While this scenario is unfortunately all too common in many organizations, the good news is that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. With some guidance, every chief medical officer and director of medical staff services can turn things around to improve overall performance and deliver the best healthcare experience possible. The time to act? Now. 

Why now is the time to reposition medical staff services 

Three-quarters of organizations say they struggle to find MSP candidates with requisite experience and skills, according to a recent survey. Unfortunately, inadequate talent pipelines and competition for scarce resources won’t go away any time soon. Organizations need a long-term vision and plan to achieve strategic goals even during times of MSP staffing shortages over which they have little or no control. 

Meanwhile, almost 350 hospitals changed ownership through acquisitions or mergers (M&A) between 2016 and 2021. And the number of employed physicians has skyrocketed to 74% as of January 1, 2022, up from 69% of physicians the previous year.  

The takeaway? Hospitals and health systems must have the right people, processes, and technologies in place to expedite clinician onboarding—especially during times of staffing shortages, peak volumes, and M&A. 

Promoting a transformational message within your organization  

Repositioning medical staff services as a strategic asset starts with possessing the right mindset. It means letting go of antiquated views that paint medical staff services as an administrative function only and embracing ones that highlight its potential to improve patient care quality, enhance practitioner satisfaction and retention, and promote revenue integrity and financial sustainability.  

To foster this mindset, healthcare leaders must be able to articulate medical staff service’s role in these three areas: 

  1. Performance  
  2. Growth  
  3. Risk mitigation  

1. Performance: Because the Medical Staff Services Department (MSSD) is charged with operationalizing the organized medical staff’s (OMS) responsibilities of monitoring and improving clinical quality, its performance can make or break an organization. But several converging forces are causing many MSSDs to under-perform. 

Staffing shortages, burnout, and inexperience contribute to a myriad of problems. And so do outdated processes, unstandardized operating procedures, and unnecessarily manual workstreams. Many MSSDs are facing credentialing information errors, noncompliance, clinician dissatisfaction, and slow turnaround times for credentialing applications. All of this can inhibit the organization’s ability to deliver safe, high-quality care. 

Common practices of successful MSSDs include: 

  • Embracing automation and establishing the MSSD as the “go-to” single source of truth for the enterprise.  

  • Positioning medical staff and MSSD staff for success through ongoing learning and growth opportunities.  

  • Defining roles, responsibilities, and accountability by identifying key metrics. 

  • Taking an adaptive approach to staffing, flexing with experienced interim resources when necessary to avoid burnout or backlog. 

  • Being responsive to the needs of busy physicians and APPs in leadership roles. 

2. Growth: MSPs enable healthcare organizations to attract and retain top talent. Physicians and APPs want a streamlined credentialing and enrollment experience. When the onboarding journey is painful and redundant, this causes burnout and turnover.  

The average total cost to replace a single physician? At least $1.3 million, according to a recent study. This includes interview expenses, relocation fees, a sign-on bonus, and lost revenue during the time it takes to recruit someone new. The number is even higher when an organization also includes loan repayment.  

Investing in medical staff services optimization is a direct investment in physician and APP recruitment and retention. 

3. Risk mitigation: MSPs limit liability. A single negligent credentialing verdict, for example, could cost an organization millions of dollars. That doesn’t even include the potential impact on public relations and patients’ perception of care and safety. One lawsuit—and the press that follows—could cause significant patient leakage.  

For instance, one hospital was hit with a $3 million negligence verdict after a botched surgery. It turned out that the hospital had failed to follow its own bylaws in credentialing a surgeon who had not completed a full residency program. Another organization vowed to overhaul its credentialing process after hiring dozens of doctors with malpractice histories. Those hires led to more than 150 malpractice cases, more than $50 million in settlements, and more than 60 patient deaths.  

An optimized medical staff services department helps organizations avoid these and other high-cost scenarios. 

What optimized medical staff services look like 

Organizations that implement an effective, compliant structure can transform their medical staff services. Rather than a source of frustration, they help drive quality by: 

  • Serving as a trusted source of information. 

  • Reducing the risk of successful negligent credentialing lawsuits. 

  • Completing application processing in fewer than 21 days. 

  • Streamlining interactions with payer credentialing to improve the initial appointment workflow. 

  • Supporting speed to billable services and clinician satisfaction. 

Optimized medical staff services drive organization-wide improvements across efficiency, experience, and quality. 

Questions to consider 

As healthcare organizations strive to calculate a specific return on investment of a medical staff services transformation project, these questions can help jumpstart the effort: 

  • How many providers does the organization currently onboard per year? 

  • What are the organization’s future recruitment numbers? 

  • What is the average revenue per provider per day? 

  • What is the current turnaround time for credentialing? 

Harness the potential of optimized medical staff services 

While some healthcare leaders still view medical staff services as a paper-pushing, obligatory department, forward-thinking ones recognize the strategic advantage of a fully optimized function. It has a clear impact on performance, growth, and cost reduction.  


Learn how Greeley can help. 


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