"This wasn't so much about meeting regs," says Walsh. "Most of those frankly can be met manually and a lot of workarounds are well within compliance, but are obviously not optimized. What people don't talk about very often is that not only are we keeping our environment safe, but we now know who's coming into our facility."
Vendors, and at first, doctors, who were concerned about the cost and red tape their vendor representatives were going to face with the system, resisted. Some of that resistance was understandable, says Walsh, given the fact that many hospitals have vendor credentialing programs, but there's wide variation in what they require, and costs add up for vendors.
But those objections were overcome with evidence of the patient safety benefits, and as hospitals have been directed to keep a closer eye on visitors by regulatory bodies. There is still the issue of standardization, however, as vendors often have to maintain records for a variety of different vendor credentialing systems that their clients use.
Autenreib and Walsh are active nationally in helping to try to improve standardization.
"It's OK to have competitive systems, but if we can share best practices and policies and procedures, the whole industry benefits," says Walsh. "We're taking the proactive steps. We're not trying to be confrontational with our suppliers."
Walsh contends that vendor credentialing is not just a back-office priority that doesn't have the attention of the executive team.
"It's strategic because we're all in the business of patient care and we can't forget that," he says. "If we can prevent harm or problems from coming into our environment, we have an obligation" to do so.