Our Approach To Provider Directories 

by Adrienne Bolger in

An astute social media user asked BlocHealth a question recently: 

“How are you going to overcome the directory issues. That has been our biggest issue. I have worked on all sides of Credentialing and currently address is still a huge problem.” 

What is the Directory Problem?

The Directory Problem, as I call it, is the general problem of maintaining up-to-date contact information for all health care practitioners and other contacts a credentialer needs to deal with in order to get someone credentialed in health care. Insurance companies, hospitals, and CVOs all have some variation of the directory problem for different parts of their businesses. 

There are 2 parts to the problem. One is general, one is specifically obnoxious for credentialers. If a business asks for your current address, you can give it to them, and a business can mark when the data was last updated and be sure it is accurate. This is generally annoying, but at least possible. Part 2 is that credentialers often have old data handed to them as current data because credentialers have to track down and verify old work histories and practices for new hires. A new hire’s resume might be updated into the system on Jan 1, 2020, but if that resume has 10-year-old contact information on it for retired peer references, it hardly matters how recent the resume is. This makes maintaining accurate data over time expensive because it has to be re-checked every time it is entered, by everyone who receives it.

(Partial) Solution #1: Technology

At BlocHeatlh, we plan on a 3-pronged approach in our technology for fixing “the directory problem.”

Our first strategy is to rely on existing data to build out our directory as much as possible- this involves pulling data (with it’s known possible inaccuracies and limitations) from many sources: everywhere from United States national government databases to Google maps, and also from users’ resumes and website crawlers to get the latest information. It’s not going to be perfect, but it is a start, and better than starting from nothing. 

 It should be noted that this strategy, while not requiring a lot of cash outlay, does require the technical sophistication and infrastructure to merge data from multiple sources. Technology will not solve all your problems, and sometimes it can make them worse because of… 

(Partial) Solution #2: Breaking Data Silos

Data silos are a big part of why the directory problem exists. Every organization is fighting the directory problem separately, and keeping their solutions to themselves. BlocHealth’s 2nd strategy is sharing public directory data for common business resources like insurance carriers , brokers, and hospitals among as many users as possible to distribute the update burden. There are some nuanced technical requirements to doing this. For example, like Yelp, verified organizations should be able to claim and manage profiles from such a directory, but like Wikipedia, all users should also be able to easily maintain and request updates to shared data, so all users can benefit. Technical organizations can learn a lot from how organizations like Wikipedia continue to function as a shared data resource for many people. Auditing requirements also must be in place so the provenance of data is tracked. 

Solution #3: Pro-actively incentivize individual users whose data you need.

The 3rd strategy addresses what most people are talking about when they say the ‘directory problem’: individual health care practitioners’ information. This kind of information is private: it can’t be maintained in a public format like Wikipedia or YellowPages.com.  

Organizations have the most problems getting this kind of information updated because they are (1) maintaining the information only for themselves in a silo (2) getting it updated reactively, and  (3) using a ‘stick’ instead of a ‘carrot’. The following scenarios are common in healthcare: 

A practitioner is told, “You must update your address and fill out this entire application exactly correctly (which takes an hour) or we will withhold your insurance payment approval.”

A practitioner is told, “You must update your phone number or our hospital will not renew your privileges.”   

This, does not, to put it mildly, engender good will towards health care business administrations. 

Instead, BlocHealth recommends that you recognize the time spent and the personal data submitted by practitioners for the valuable commodity that they are.   

If you’re a technical organization, design all directory technology to need only the minimum updates and prioritize making updates VERY FAST. A great new technology in this area is mobile-friendly websites that users are prompted to visit via a one-time secure link sent via SMS/text message on their smartphone. The process is seamless, has great response rates, and is fast for updating for everyone involved. 

Even if you aren’t a hi-tech organization, you can still proactively incentivize practitioners to update data by giving them some value in return. In BlocHealth’s case, our platform offers a resume generator, a digital peer reference process, a common application, and other features designed to save the professional time by keeping their directory information up to date. For your organization, it might be as simple as enacting a process where updated contact information gets used for credentialing, HR updates, and a yearly birthday card. Get creative!