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Is there a difference between the terms ’credentialing’ and ’privileging?’

Medical Staff Legal Advisor, February 8, 2005

Hospitals often use the term credentialing to imply a process used to make decisions regarding membership and the granting of privileges. The two terms are, however, quite different.

Technically the term credentialing represents the verification of a person's education, training and experience (as in "to verify a person's credentials"). Hospitals often extend the meaning to include evaluation of collected information and making a decision to appoint a physician (as in "he has been credentialed as a member of the staff).

Privileging is completely different. This term implies that a person has been given permission or "privileges" to engage in specified clinical activities. It is important to recognize that the terms membership and privileges are different. Membership means that a person is a member of the medical staff and (within hospitals) can call himself a member, attend meetings, vote if in the active category, and receive all other benefits of such membership. There may also be requirements which go along with membership, such as paying dues, attending patients in the emergency department, etc.  Privileges are needed in order to treat patients.