Credentialing, Licensure, Certification, Accreditation: What’s the Difference?

Within the medical arena it seems like the terms credential, license, certification, and accreditation are used frequently and interchangeably. As an accrediting body, the AIUM wanted some help in showing and explaining how these terms differ. Luckily credentialing expert Mickie Rops, CAE, agreed to help out. In this post, she explains the differences.aium_accred

  1. Credentialing: Process by which an agent qualified to do so grants formal recognition to and records such status of entities (individuals, organizations, processes, services, or products) meeting pre-determined and standardized criteria. Credentialing is the umbrella term for all the types of programs like the ones that follow.
  2. Licensure: Mandatory process by which a governmental agency grants time-limited permission to an individual to engage in a given occupation after verifying that he or she has met predetermined and standardized criteria. Licenses are typically granted at the state level and have ongoing maintenance requirements. Associations do not grant professional licensure.
  3. Professional Certification: Voluntary process by which a nongovernmental entity grants a time-limited recognition to an individual after verifying that he or she has met predetermined and standardized criteria. Historically association-based programs, many companies (Microsoft, for example) now offer and manage certification programs. Professional certification also has ongoing maintenance requirements.
  4. Accreditation: Voluntary process by which a nongovernmental entity grants a time-limited recognition to an organization after verifying that it has met predetermined and standardized criteria. The focus of accreditation’s assessment is on safe and effective processes and outcomes. Accreditation usually has ongoing maintenance requirements.
  5. Certificates: A training program, class, or session on a focused topic for which participants receive a certificate after completion of the coursework and successful demonstration of attaining the course learning objectives. While certificates may be dated, once they are awarded, they are awarded. There are no ongoing maintenance requirements.

The AIUM is an accrediting body, which means it recognizes practices, not individuals, that meet its published parameters. These parameters are focused on safe and effective processes and outcomes. The AIUM also issues certificates for those who earn CME credits by attending an event, taking a test, or participating in a webinar. These certificates, however, must be submitted to the entity that issues the appropriate licensee, certification, or accreditation.

Do these terms confuse you? What tricks do you use to keep them straight? Have an questions about AIUM Accreditation?  Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Mickie S. Rops, CAE, is a credentialing expert who helps organizations make the right credentialing decisions. She can be reached at www.msrops.com or mickie@msrops.com.

Our Accreditation Experience

Ultrasound accreditation.

I’m sure you’ve heard about it, but you may be wondering: what does it really mean? Does it really matter if my practice site is accredited?

At one point I know that I wondered this myself! However, as a 17-year chief sonographer, and as the Ultrasound Technical Consultant for Allina Health Clinics, I can now tell you that for our sites, it absolutely does.

As a quality measure to ensure all ultrasound examinations are being performed and reported with the same standards of excellence, we decided to seek accreditation with the AIUM. Included under one AIUM accreditation, we have multiple clinic sites where the OB/GYN physicians read the ultrasound studies. It is a strict policy in our organization that any OB/GYN physician who wishes to read and bill for ultrasound exams must be added to our current AIUM accreditation.

With so many employees included in our accreditation, we knew that we needed to come up with a way to be able to facilitate new additions in a proficient manner, so that all sites received the same information and training. Thus (cue the climactic music), the “AIUM Physician Orientation and Mentoring” program was born!

We created this program for our organization as a virtual checklist of education and documentation needs, report over-reads, and competencies for the new physicians wishing to be added to our accreditation. We have a similar program for the sonographers that incorporates information and requirements for protocols, procedures, processes, and safety.

The Process

When I first started working with site accreditations everything was done on paper and case studies were submitted either on film or CDs. Now this process has been streamlined and all information that is required is easily uploaded to the AIUM site for their review.

For an accreditation such as ours that includes multiple sites, it was essential that we create a timeline to help us stay on track of what needed to be done and by when. The truth is, this is a very good way for any size site to make sure it stays on task and on time.
AIUM Accred Timeline

For us, this time around was a reaccreditation. So it is good to note that our information and supporting documents were due to the AIUM 6 months before the end of our current accreditation cycle. As you can see by the timeline, I set a goal of submitting 1 month before the due date. And that ended up being a good call because our actual submission date was only one week before the AIUM deadline.

Once all of our information was submitted, the Accreditation Team at the AIUM responded to us with any items that needed tweaking or were not quite hitting the mark. We replied to the AIUM on the changes that we would make and the education that we would provide our staff, and have been able to improve our services even more based on what we learned from those responses.

As one item of note, for us, the case submission selection and preparation was the longest and most time-consuming aspect of the process. Next time, we will start this task even earlier than outlined. Live and learn!

The Questions, Oh the Questions!
I had gone through an accreditation process before, but not with the AIUM. Since this was the first time for me, I had a ton of questions. I can’t even count how many times I emailed or called the AIUM staff, but I am sure they were groaning every time they heard from me.

However, each person that I spoke with was very understanding, helpful, and friendly. In fact, we communicated on such a regular basis that by the time I had submitted all of our information, they felt like good friends to me and I was tempted to invite them over for Thanksgiving dinner!

So Was It Worth It?
We expect our multiple sites to operate as one to ensure that patients are getting the same level of high-quality care when they go to site “A” for an OB/GYN  ultrasound, as when they go to site “B” for an OB/GYN ultrasound. For us accreditation has helped us accomplish that. The result has been higher patient satisfaction levels and improved quality and proficiency of our work.

Continuity of care. Improved quality. Higher patient satisfaction levels. Is accreditation worth it?

You bet it is!

Thinking about going through the AIUM practice accreditation process? Have any insights, tips, or ideas to share? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Laura M. Johnson, RDMS, RVT, is an Ultrasound Technical Consultant with Allina Health.

15 Tips to Accreditation Success

Every day, the AIUM receives applications for AIUM accreditation. Some of these are pristine and go quickly through the process. Others require follow up which can delay the process—sometimes significantly. If your practice has decided that 2015 is the year it will seek accreditation, we have come up with 15 ways to help you improve your application.

For all practices: aium_accred

  1. Contact information—You’d be amazed at how many applications fail to include contact information on reports. Make sure you also include accurate email addresses, street addresses and phone numbers on the application. Doing so helps the overall process run more smoothly.
  2. Support all information—If you are reporting information that can be supported by an image or a short video clip, make sure it is included in your case submission. AIUM receives numerous applications where things like measurements, pathology and anatomy are reported but no supporting images are included.
  3. Sign and date your reports—Even if the report is dated, the physician needs to not only sign the report but also date his or her signature. This shows the timeliness of the report as well as your internal review process.
  4. Report your CME credits—Accreditation requires that all physicians have a certain number of CME credits. Before you submit your application, double check that all the included physicians have the necessary CME credits.

For OB practices:

  1. Image the adnexa—This is one of the required images so make sure you include and label it!
  2. M-mode not Doppler— In order to be compliant with ALARA, use M-mode first. If M-mode is unsuccessful then Doppler can be used keeping in mind the AIUM Statement on Measurement of Fetal Heart Rate.
  3. Report number of fetuses—There are multiple ways to report the number of fetuses and can be documented anywhere on the report. Some examples include: Fetal 1/1, singleton, Number of fetus = 1.
  4. Be careful of the thermal index—Monitor the thermal index. Keep this displayed at all times, if possible. Review the AIUM Statement on Heat.
  5. Include ALL third trimester anatomy—This is true even if you perform mostly growth sonograms in the third trimester. For accreditation purposes, make sure your third trimester submission is a complete anatomy study.

For GYN practices:

  1. Get correct volume measurements—When reporting uterine volume the measurement of the uterine corpus must be submitted. If your practice does not report uterine volume then measuring the length of the uterus must be from the fundus to the external os.
  2. Report uterine orientation with sonographic terminology—Anteverted, retroverted, anteflexed or retroflexed must be used to report uterine orientation. “Normal” is not appropriate sonographic terminology.
  3. Report the use of transvaginal probe/transducer—If you used a transvaginal probe/transducer, make sure you report it.

A few more:

  1. Limit images with anisotropy (MSK practices)—Aligning the transducer perpendicular to the structure will eliminate anisotropy.
  2. Images not labeled (MSK, dedicated Thyroid, Fetal Echo practices)—A good mantra to follow is, “If it’s an image, label it.” If you follow that, you will avoid one of the most common mistakes that slow down the review of an accreditation application.
  3. Include images of all cardiac biometry (Fetal Echo practices)—This is required for accreditation and yet practices fail to submit these images. Don’t forget.

Following these tips will help ensure your application is complete and goes through the accreditation process as smoothly as possible. At any time, however, feel free to call the AIUM at 800-638-5352 or email accreditation@aium.org if you have any questions. Good luck!

Is your practice accredited or considering the accreditation process? What questions do you have? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Therese Cooper, BS, RDMS, is AIUM’s Director of Accreditation.

Why 76811 Accreditation?

Starting in 2013, the AIUM and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) co-led a task force of medical societies to explore what distinguished a 76811 examination from the more routine 76805 examination. The result of that task force was the “Consensus Report on the Detailed Fetal Anatomic Ultrasound Examination,” which was published in the February 2014 edition of the Journal of Ultrasound in Medicine.

aium_accredThe report concludes that the 76811 is a distinct examination that requires special expertise. While many obstetricians and radiologists perform the 76805 on a routine basis, the skills and detail required for a 76811 generally require additional training and expertise—frequently through a Maternal-Fetal Medicine fellowship or similar targeted radiology fellowship.

Unfortunately in practice, what constitutes a “detailed obstetrical ultrasound” (or a 76811 examination) varies tremendously. It was for this reason that the AIUM felt it was critically important to promote standardization of what is required of such an examination and work to ensure that individuals performing these are competent and qualified. Additionally, given the move by some payors to reimburse only examinations performed by accredited practices, the AIUM felt it was prudent to have a mechanism in place to accredit practices that would be qualified to perform these examinations before it was directed by the insurers.

To address these concerns the AIUM developed the 76811 accreditation. This new accreditation is an “adjunctive” accreditation for practices that have, or are seeking, accreditation in 2nd/3rd trimester obstetrical ultrasound. It operates very similarly to how 3-D gynecologic ultrasound accreditation is an adjunct to the basic GYN ultrasound accreditation.

If your practice is performing detailed ultrasound examinations for women at high risk of, or who are suspected of having, an anomaly, you should consider adding the 76811 accreditation.

The structure for this accreditation submission is a little different however. Because the consensus statement provided a long list of “always must show” anatomy, and an additional list of “when clinically indicated” anatomy, the accreditation submission must show all of the “always” anatomy on each of the normals, but only needs to show an example of a selection of the “when clinically indicated anatomy” structures on at least one of the studies. In this way, you can exhibit competence getting the views that are occasionally, but not always, needed without having to add a lot of extra views to all of your study submissions.

This newly added accreditation option is live now. The AIUM is excited about letting you demonstrate your expertise so that you can get the credit and recognition that you deserve. Once again, the AIUM is involved in setting the standards for quality, and we know our members are up to the challenge!

Have questions about this new accreditation option? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Dr. David C. Jones is Director, Univerisity of Vermont Medical Center Fetal Diagnostic Center and Professor, Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at the University of Vermont, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences, Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine. He serves as Vice Chair of the AIUM’s Ultrasound Practice Accreditation Council.