NU Online News Service, May 24, 2004, 4:43 p.m. EDT – UnitedHealth Group Inc., Minnetonka, Minn., has given a big boost to an industry effort to mend fences with doctors.[@@]

The giant managed care company has announced plans to use the Universal Credentialing DataSource, a database set up by the Council for Affordable Quality Healthcare, Washington, to give doctors a tool they can use to sign up with many different health insurance provider networks at the same time.

CAQH developed the database, which is free for doctors, in response to complaints from doctors. Doctors told CAQH that each insurer has been asking them to fill out all-but-identical forms 4 times per year.

The DataSource service is supposed to give doctors a tool they can use to satisfy the credentialing needs of all participating insurers.

Doctors can submit information to the CAQH database through the Web or by fax. The service will share information with health insurers whenever a doctor has given it permission to do so.

Any health care organization with credentialing requirements can use the credentialing service. Health care organizations finance the service by paying annual administrative fees and annual fees for each doctor checked.

Each health care organization reviews the credentialing data and decides independently whether a doctor meets its standards, CAQH says.

Aetna Inc., Hartford, and many Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans have been strong CAQH database supporters.

So far, about 90,000 providers have registered with the CAQH database service, CAQH says.