Is hospital visitor-credentialing a good idea for Ireland?

Martin Cowley
Martin Cowley

When I was a hospital CEO I was always worried that representatives of medical suppliers had unfettered access to medical staff, thus potentially interfering with normal Procuring & Tendering processes, writes Martin Cowley. Therefore, I have been interested in the growth of visitor-credentialing platforms being deployed in hospitals across the UK and US due to the cross-hospital and multiple-departmental benefits which they claim to deliver, alongside better management of the relationship with commercial visitors.

So, what is hospital visitor-credentialing? There are a small number of active players in the UK, US & Ireland, and their platforms allow hospitals to define which visitors should require permissions and/or specific credentials to entire their site, and to also require certain sets and sub-sets of visitors the facility to register with the credentialing companies and (if required) to register their visits.

This can also be modified to define particular hospital zones as requiring additional permissions/credentials. For example, a hospital may wish to be much more protective of sensitive areas such as Theatre, Lab, or areas where there are particularly vulnerable patients such as Paedatrics departments, Psychiatric wards.

As well as protecting sensitive areas and vulnerable patients, and referring back to my opening paragraph, there are also commercial imperatives behind visitor-credentialing.  Procurement and financial managers in hospitals are appreciative of the concept due to increased ability to inhibit commercial visitors having un-scheduled meetings with hospital staff, thus reducing over-spend, and improving adherence to agreed Tenders & Frameworks.

With regard to the day-to-day operation of a visitor-credentialing platform, the hospital can choose who exactly requires permissions and/or who requires credentials.  This in turn leads to those visitors being potentially required to pre-register their visit which the hospital can then approve or over-ride. The credentialing companies can also check on your behalf that certain visitors have achieved the likes of Garda vetting, innoculations, Covid vaccine or other innoculations, valid training certification and other documentation – for example, has the Sales Rep read the relevant hospital policies? Has he/she attended a Theatre awareness course? Has he/she received the latest Covid booster?

Plus of course, there are a range of general benefits from having this new level of extra knowledge and control over who comes on to your hospital site – everything from general security, health & safety to infection control and regulatory compliance.  The providers also promise to deliver data analytics and other metrics.

MedCred can be applied to commercial visitors, contractors, or temporary/locum hospital staff. Indeed logic dictates that eventually it can be applied to almost any visitor to a healthcare setting. 

So, surely a good idea? Are there any downsides? Certainly there will need to be a level of hospital buy-in, and even though providers promise that their systems are either free or low-cost, any new system that requires hospital resources will have some cost. And deploying a credentialing platform will also require a shift in thinking and in culture. It is up to each hospital to weigh up the benefits and the effort required to get involved in credentialing But worth looking at, no doubt.

Martin Cowley is an advisor to MedCred, an Irish hospital visitor credentialing platform.