We often get this question when speaking with customers, business partners, or anyone else who wants to figure out exactly what credentialing means. And it’s easy to see why so many are confused. Because the word means different things to people in a range of contexts. But, having a common understanding is crucial to developing effective credentialing management software.
Some use the word “credentialing” interchangeably with “certification”. Hospital or healthcare credentialing is typically used to describe the process of obtaining, verifying, or assessing the qualifications of a healthcare practitioner. The Joint Commission, for example, describes credentialing as:
“…the process of obtaining, verifying, and assessing the qualifications of a practitioner to provide care or services in or for a health care organization. Credentials are documented evidence of licensure, education, training, experience, or other qualifications. Examples of credentials are a certificate, letter, or experience that qualifies somebody to do something.”
The National Environmental Health Association states that:
“A credential is issued by a third party with authoritative power, and is proof of an individual’s qualification or competence in a given subject.”
They go on to describe the difference between credentials and certifications from their perspective.
In the education sector, the New England Board of Higher Education provide their description of credentialing in a slightly different context:
“A documented award by a responsible and authorized body that has determined that an individual has achieved specific learning outcomes relative to a given standard.”
And then there is vendor credentialing. In a hospital setting, this is typically the process of vetting and validating the credentials of a third party (a current or potential supplier, for example) before accepting or buying their products or services.
While each definition of credentialing follows a similar theme, there are nuances associated with the meaning of the word in different contexts and business segments.
What definition does ARMATURE use?
We like the approach that the Institute for Credentialing Excellence takes:
Credentialing is an umbrella term used to refer to concepts such as professional certification, certificate programs, accreditation, licensure, and regulation.
- A certification program is designed to test the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to perform a particular job, and, upon successfully passing a certification exam, to represent a declaration of a particular individual’s professional competence. In some professions, certification is a requirement for employment or practice.
- Similarly, licensure tests an individual’s competence but is a mandatory process by which the government grants time-limited permission for that licensed individual to practice his or her profession.
- In contrast to certification and licensure, an assessment-based certificate program is an educational or training program that is used to teach learning objectives and assess whether those objectives were achieved by the student.
- Accreditation is the process by which a credentialing or educational program is evaluated against defined standards and is awarded recognition if it is in compliance with those standards. I.C.E. currently offers accreditation to professional certification programs through the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).
These are just some of the concepts that fall under the umbrella of credentialing.
OK, so what role does ARMATURE play in credentialing?
ARMATURE provides management software to support multiple areas within credentialing. Our focus for the last two decades has been in the delivery of accreditation management software, and certification management software (personnel, institutions, products). We also provide audit management software capabilities for standards such as ISO, ASME, and CWB, although this likely falls more in the bucket of conformity assessment versus credentialing.
Credentialing can mean a whole bunch of things. It really depends on your industry, your function, and the broader context of how it is being used. For us, we’ll stick with the I.C.E. definition for now, and we’re sure you’ll want to make your own conclusions.