Chapter 5: Clinical Staffing – Credentialing and Privileging Assurances for Contracted/Referral Arrangements

The HRSA Site Visit Protocol (SVP) asks, during the FQHC site visit, “Was the health center able to ensure through provisions in contracts or through other means (e.g., health center review of the contracted organizations’ credentialing and privileging processes) that contracted services (Form 5A, Column II) and referred services (Form 5A, Column III) are provided by organizations that:

  • Verify provider licensure, certification, or registration through a credentialing process?
  • Verify providers are competent and fit to perform the contracted service(s) through a privileging process (HRSA Site Visit Protocol, p. 24 and 25)?”

A question frequently raised is, “which Column II and III services do I need to ensure they credential/privilege their providers?” “Do I need those assurances for ‘Transportation Services’?” “Screening Services?”

The HRSA Site Visit Protocol and HRSA Compliance Manual are not clear on this, but this is my trusty rule-of-thumb that has not let me down yet: “If your health center was providing that service directly (Column I) and your policies would require you to credential and privilege those employees, then you also need to have documented assurances that those services utilize appropriately credentialed and privileged staff.”

For example, if your health center had a pharmacy on-site, would you credential and privilege your pharmacist or pharmacy tech? Yes. Then you should also have assurances that your Column II contract pharmacy also credentials and privileges their staff.

Or, if you had a transportation service (a person that drives a van around to pick-up patients for visits) provided by your health center, would you credential and privilege that driver? No. Then you do not need to have assurances that your Column III transportation company credentials and privileges their drivers.

As you work to prepare for your FQHC operational site visit, whether it be through a mock site visit or your internal efforts, reviewing contracts and referral arrangements early and frequently will help you and your health center move toward HRSA Continuous Compliance. These types of contracts and arrangements often take a great deal of work to edit and volley back and forth between legal counsel teams – so allow plenty of time to craft these documents to be aligned with the HRSA Program Requirements.