The Difference Between Credentialing and Privileging


These two terms are interrelated and at the same time, there are moderate differences. Essentially, the term credentialing refers to a process of verification by which a candidate or professional’s education, experience and training are scrutinized and substantiated. Healthcare institutions have been known to extend the term to include evaluation of collected data and making important decisions regarding doctor acquisition. Once approved the physician is therefore considered credentialed as a staff member.


There are many types of credentials but only a few main ones are used by all healthcare organizations and they are:

– License and re-license

– college or university degrees

– postgraduate work

– certificates

– awards

There are lots of other types of professional credentialing that should be considered as vital and representing the immense value in substantiation of learned abilities and education in a variety of highly skilled industries[1] such as the dynamic and ever-changing IT industry, STEM industries, airline pilots, lawyers, military, and education to name just a few.

When it comes to the healthcare industry more often then not they make it an essential requirement that doctors and candidates provide proof that they have completed either a defined number of particular patient care treatments under supervision or completed a specified number of accredited training or educational credits in specific programs for the job they are employed to perform.

The Difference Between Credentialing and Privileging

Most hospitals and healthcare organizations undergo a systematic and comprehensive background check of all credible information of all their physicians’ and healthcare staff as a rule to safeguard against patient malpractice incidents. Hospitals will often search for: signatures of supervising professionals, documentation of completion of special training and education, recordings of interest, and any other information deemed critically important.

Before handing out credentials, hospitals check fellowship or residency training program competition, board certification, and competency-based education.

The processes of privileging and credentialing are defined in the organizations bylaws, policies, and procedures. Getting credentials and privileges is a necessary part of providing services to patients.

The Difference Between Credentialing and Privileging


The companion piece to credentialing is privileging. Though privileging is looked at differently from credentialing in that it is given to a particular physician to perform work. The doctor is given permission to perform specific activities in a hospital or healthcare facility. Or in other words, it’s the process of authorizing a licensed or certified healthcare practitioner’s specific scope of patient care services. Privileging is given in conjunction with an evaluation of a doctor’s clinical qualifications or performance.

Not to confuse matters but there is also a big difference between privilege and membership. Membership usually defines a physician’s stature as a member of the medical staff. Member doctors are granted the opportunity to attend member-only meetings, vote and receive all the benefits of membership. Memberships also come with their own set of obligations such as attending patients in the department, paying dues, and other responsibilities.

The first step in the privileging process is to get an application for privileges. Hospitals often provide application packets that include the list of data required to get privileges. Once a physician submits a list of the requested privileges and proves that his/her credentials are real.

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