Staffing your healthcare organization with the right talent starts with ensuring that candidates have all the right qualifications. While the ideal situation would be for all applicants to submit an honest experience report, there is always the risk that a candidate is not being completely truthful about their credentials. This is where Primary Source Verification (PSV) comes in.

Primary Source Verification is a vital step in the healthcare credentialing process that organizations should take very seriously. To help you avoid compliance issues and gain a better understanding of what PSV can do for your organization, here is a guide on exactly what it is, how to use it, and where it fits into your credentialing process.

What is Primary Source Verification?

Primary Source Verification is the official process of obtaining, reviewing, and verifying valid licenses, certifications, or registrations of a medical practitioner who will be providing care at any hospital or healthcare institution with the “Primary Source”. Not to be confused with the overarching credentialing process of obtaining and checking a wide variety of documents, PSV is the localized process specifically referring to the direct contact your business has with the trusted organization or government entity that issued a candidate’s credentials.

As it is only one step among many in the full credentialing process, we often see companies procrastinating on this step. To protect patients and avoid compliance consequences, we strongly encourage healthcare centers and hospitals to make Primary Source Verification a permanent standard while hiring.

What is Considered a Primary Source?

Specifically, a primary source is an organization, governing body, or individual who directly provides information for review. For example, if you have acquired a candidate’s Bachelor’s degree for verification, the primary source would be the college or university that issued it. Some acceptable primary sources include:

  • Federal and State Government entities
  • Educational Institutions 
  • Hospitals/Past Employers 
  • Professional Associations 
    • Affiliations
    • Professional Certifications
  • Individuals
    • Peer Reference
    • Professional Connections
  • Designated Equivalent Sources (sources that are not the primary source but are accepted by the Joint Commission)
    • AMA Physician Masterfile
    • ABMS Board Certification
    • AOA Pre-Doctoral Approved Education
    • AAPA Physician Assistant Education Profile
    • FSMB Disciplinary Action Databank Action

As an employer, your main priority should be to contact trusted sources and prepare the right questions ahead of time to detect any potential irregularities in an employee’s profile. There may be times when it is not possible to get in touch with an organization, especially if a past hospital employment institution has closed. In these instances, you should document all of your efforts to make contact with a primary source or reach out to a secondary source. Secondary source verification includes written statements from successor organizations, locating documents that were sent to other sources, or contacting other hospitals in the closed facility’s proximity that could offer insight into further verification.

Why is Primary Source Verification Important?

Forging certifications is unfortunately not impossible. It is very much illegal to forge these documents, but modern technology has made it increasingly easier for individuals to get away with fabricated proof. Organizations that do not perform a proper Primary Source Verification risk collecting inaccurate, biased, or made-up information. The most severe implication of this judgment lapse is endangering patient safety.

In addition to the Joint Commission, proof of a PSV is demanded by major players in the healthcare industry like the American Medical Association, State Medical Boards, and most federal agencies related to healthcare. These organizations hold practitioners accountable and remind them that practicing medicine without the proper licenses is illegal in all states and can result in prison. It also leads to massive fines and legal consequences for the institutions involved. For the safety of your patients and the integrity of your organization, we recommend collecting and correctly verifying as many primary sources as possible.

How Does the Verification Process Work?

The Joint Commission, the primary accreditor of healthcare organizations in the U.S., requires that the accredited organization, not the practitioner in question, be responsible for acquiring the appropriate documentation from an original source. The verification date, the person conducting the verification, and the results of the verification should all be documented for compliance purposes, as well.

Verification can be obtained in writing, over the phone, through a website, or in person. Many healthcare organizations struggle with the management of this process, as it usually has to be conducted manually. This long, complex process results in additional human capital costs for hospitals and healthcare providers that are subject to human error. As a result, 83% of healthcare organizations have made the change to fully or partially automating credentialing management.

It is ultimately much more practical to rely on healthcare credentialing software or an outsourced credentialing partner for Primary Source Verification. By outsourcing the PSV process to a credentialing verification organization, your staff will not only be relieved of long arduous hours but will also experience a more streamlined credentialing process. Optimizing your healthcare credentialing data is a must to properly verify licenses and avoid lawsuits and additional costs.

At Tollanis, we provide outsourcing services through the latest technology in credentialing. Our partner software, Credentially, allows us to customize your compliance, set up ongoing credential documentation tracking, and provide detailed reports. The industry standard for credentialing and verification takes as much as 128 days of constant work. But Tollanis and Credentially can reduce this time window to a mere 10 days. This end-to-end software and management system will empower you to invest time and costs you used to spend on manual credentialing on the actual services offered by your organization.

Key Takeaways

At the end of the day, it is the responsibility of each healthcare organization to protect its patients by ensuring that their practitioners are qualified and officially certified. Establishing the best credentialing process that includes Primary Source Verification should be at the forefront of your recruitment practices. By implementing a solid automated PSV process through a credentialing verification partner like Tollanis, organizations can expect an improved workflow that saves time, money, and avoids potential fines and lawsuits.

As a strategic partner, Tollanis Solutions understands what healthcare organizations need to eliminate frustrations associated with credentialing and verification. Contact us today to take the complexities out of Primary Source Verification and secure your compliance.