Provider Credentialing and Provider Enrollment: What’s the Difference and Why Does it Matter?

Patient at doctor's office reception desk with nurse

Provider enrollment is crucial for health plans to ensure that members have access to a full range of services. Credentialing verifies a clinician’s training and licensing. Enrollment establishes the technical connection between the provider and the plan. The processes can be complex and time-consuming, but partnering with dedicated enrollment experts – like UHIN – can help streamline the onboarding experience and accelerate success in a highly competitive marketplace.

Why Enrollment Matters

Health plans are constantly looking for better ways to serve the insured, from developing innovative wellness benefits to making it easier to access high-quality, affordable care in the community.

Provider network development is a huge component of this quest for continuous improvement.  Contracting with the right mix of providers – and enough of them – ensures that members can get a full range of services within an acceptable time frame.

Building this ecosystem isn’t always easy, especially when it comes to the nuts and bolts of bringing clinicians on board. Provider credentialing and provider enrollment are equally critical, yet they can often cause confusion and problems on both sides of the plan-provider relationship. 

In fact, providers not being registered/credentialed with a payer is the #1 reason for denials. The #2 reason for denials: the provider did not complete the payer-required process for enrollment.

Both steps – credentialing and enrollment – are crucial. However, even the fundamental differences between the two activities aren’t always clear, especially because they bump up against each other during onboarding. It’s important to understand what’s involved in each process, how they work, and why finding the right partner matters so much to health plans as they grow and mature.

What is Provider Credentialing?

Provider credentialing is the act of verifying that a clinician has the correct training and licensing to practice in their area of expertise. It’s similar to an extensive background check. The process starts after a provider submits a request to work with a practice, health system, or health plan. Collecting this extensive dataset can take up to three months or longer. 

While UHIN does not currently support the credentialing process, certain industry applications are in place, including the CAQH credentialing application. Until the credentialing process is complete, a provider cannot finish the rest of the enrollment process with a health plan. This is especially important for 98 percent of providers in the US who participate in Medicare and Medicare Advantage. In addition, nearly every health plan, including Medicare, requires EDI enrollment in order to start getting reimbursed for services.

What is Provider Enrollment?

Once a provider is officially welcomed into the network, the majority of health plans will require them to complete Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) enrollment, which is the technical connection between the provider and the plan. EDI enrollment allows providers to submit electronic claims to the plan and receive remittance for their services.

Electronic claims submission is nearly universal in the medical industry, according to the latest CAQH index report. In 2022, 97 percent of claims submissions transactions occurred electronically, giving both providers and health plans a strong motivation to ensure they are appropriately connected.

Unfortunately, neither the administrative nor the EDI enrollment processes are standardized across different health plans. This forces providers to juggle many different requirements and documentation requests for each individual payer. The complexity of managing requests from a slew of disparate plans and providers can lead to mistakes and omissions that extend the timeline. 

Even more information may be required during EDI enrollment than credentialing. This can take an additional four to six weeks (or longer) on top of the credentialing timeframe. This is especially true if extensive contract negotiations are necessary or IT challenges get in the way.

In addition, smaller provider groups often do not have enough people-power to devote exclusively to enrollment, making it even more difficult for plans and providers to work together effectively.   

UHIN’s Enrollment Team provides detailed next steps for enrollment based on each specific payer and transaction type for each case. Additionally, we provide defined next steps to move forward with enrollment, based on the payer requirements. UHIN can be reached at and we will be happy to provide enrollment direction, advice and helpful support through the EDI enrollment process.

How Can Health Plans Streamline Enrollment Processes?

Just like many other areas of the healthcare ecosystem, provider EDI enrollment can significantly benefit from digitization and strong partnerships with expert teams. The widespread lack of standardized processes means plans and providers have to consider each request as a one-off, which can take a great deal of time and effort to parse through without some help.

Charting a Course for Success

When working with providers, health plans should offer clear and detailed instructions on the information needed and the deadlines for delivering it.

Plans should assess their needs by charting out their existing enrollment workflow and identifying any bottlenecks that lead to lag time. Often, these pain points are related to delays in collecting information from providers and internal delays in processing paperwork once received. The result of these delays are wild swings in average completion time for provider onboarding, which creates unpredictability on both sides of the relationship. 

Finding the Right Support

On the internal front, plans should seek out enrollment partners that can field provider requests on behalf of the payer, taking the task off the shoulders of health plan staff. It should take a specialist enrollment team less than one business day to process a request once all of the information is received. There may be additional waiting time depending on the unique payer requirements.

Health plans and providers should make sure they are working with a dedicated enrollment team that can take deep dives into problem-solving when unique technical or administrative challenges arise, such as a technology enhancement that can lead to the need for a process rewrite.

An experienced partner, such as UHIN, offers an expert enrollment team to help navigate the complicated enrollment process. Although we do not currently provide credentialing support, we have a proven history in expediting and accurately guiding providers through the enrollment process. Our enrollment team is based in the US and delivers in-depth knowledge and support to make the enrollment process as frictionless as possible. We can handle any questions you may have in this complicated and critical process.

Partnering with the Right EDI Enrollment Experts

Enrollment involves complex activities with many moving pieces. Getting them right is vital for the success of health plans and provider groups. By understanding the nuances of the process, plans and providers can start to tackle the pinch points that make network development so challenging. Plans that enlist the help of dedicated partners to take on key tasks, such as enrollment, have a better chance of creating a smoother onboarding experience and accelerating their success in a highly competitive marketplace.

UHIN’s enrollment team offers years of experience helping providers through the enrollment process. We provide direct support and in-depth knowledge to expedite the enrollment process and get providers over the finish line no matter how complex or unique the process may be.

Are you a current provider with a UHIN account and interested in learning more about enrollment? Contact or customer service at 877-693-3071.

If you’re new to UHIN, click below and tell us how we can help streamline EDI enrollment onboarding and relieve burdens for your health plan!