Selecting a national accrediting body is a significant commitment for an organization that goes beyond the initial accreditation cycle. In most cases, it continues for many years, often for decades. Because of the investment in time, money and effort involved, the selection process should not be taken lightly.
Child and family service agencies and behavioral healthcare organizations overwhelmingly choose from three main accrediting bodies: CARF International, Council on Accreditation (COA) and the Joint Commission (formerly known as JCAHO). Each accrediting body emphasizes the critical elements of performance improvement, risk reduction, financial controls, client rights, and health and safety for staff and individuals served. And each also conducts an onsite survey to determine the organization’s level of compliance with the accreditation standards. However, there are significant differences between the three that impact the process and determine their “fit” with an organization.
Choosing an Accrediting Body
So, how do organizations choose between the accrediting bodies? Here are 10 key steps to help with the selection process:
- Determine if the accrediting bodies being considered are approved by federal or state authorities to meet your organization’s applicable mandates or recognitions.
- Check partner or “sister” organizations for accreditation status and decide if it would be helpful for all to use the same accrediting body.
- Look for any potential mergers or acquisitions on the horizon.
- Determine if your organization is medically based or looking for partnerships or referrals from the physical healthcare market.
- Determine the direct accreditation costs. Each accrediting body will be happy to give you an estimate.
- Determine if your goal is to accredit a specific program or service or all your programs/services.
- Know your baseline — Take Accreditation Guru’s free Accreditation Readiness Assessment online at https://accreditationguru.com.
- Obtain and review the accreditation standards from each accrediting body.
- Check with your payers (Medicaid, private commercial insurances, Title IV-E for QRTPs) to verify which accrediting body is approved for reimbursement.
- Contact accredited entities providing similar programs/services or other accredited members of any national or state association that you are a member of and ask for the pros and cons of their accrediting body.
Once these steps have been completed, you should have a better understanding of which accrediting body is suited for your organization. Then the real fun of preparing for accreditation can begin!
For assistance navigating the road to national accreditation or if you would like to discuss which accrediting body would be the best fit for your organization, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-945-8504.
Best of luck!
 During the recent COVID-19 pandemic, the accrediting bodies moved to their own virtual survey method. At the writing of this article, they are presently conducting a mix of onsite, virtual and hybrid visits.