Accreditation 101

For those who may be new to the accreditation game, in this video Jennifer goes over the basics of accreditation, including “how” and the “why” of accreditation for your organization.

Get Accredited Without Breaking the Bank

Human service organizations play a crucial role in meeting the needs of vulnerable populations, and it is essential that they are well-manage and effective in their operations. One way that organizations can demonstrate their commitment to quality is by becoming nationally accredited. However, the costs associated with accreditation can be a barrier for some organizations, especially those with limited resources.

While the costs of accreditation can be significant, it is important to remember that accreditation can lead to significant organizational improvements. Accreditation helps organizations to identify areas for improvement, implement best practices, and enhance their service delivery. These improvements can translate into better outcomes for clients and greater organization efficiency, which can help to offset the costs of accreditation over time.

Read on for tips on how a human service organization may approach the costs associated with becoming nationally accredited.

Direct vs. Indirect Costs

It is important to analyze the annual costs associated with accreditation and determine whether they are feasible for the organization. This analysis should include both direct costs (such as application fees and onsite survey expenses) and indirect costs (staff time spent on accreditation-related tasks or improvements to facilities, for example). By understanding the costs associated with accreditation, organizations can develop a realistic budget and plan accordingly.

TIP: When comparing fees from different accrediting bodies, they can vary widely based on your organization’s size, breadth of programs, number of locations, budget, etc. When you have an estimate of fees from an accrediting body (AB) for your entity, it helps to divide by three if that AB has a 3-year cycle (such as CARF International or The Joint Commission) or divide by four for a 4-year cycle (COA Accreditation, for example) to better directly compare total fees.

New Program Development & Expansion

New program development / expansion may come about as a decision while conducting strategic planning, assessing needs of defined service population, staffing needs, and accessibility of services. These decisions may require additional staffing, resources, and facilities improvements, which can add to the overall cost of accreditation. However, these investments can also help organizations to better serve their communities, enhance their long-term sustainability, and ultimately lead to higher revenue.

TIP: Be sure that your leadership and board of directors have accurate and complete data to make informed decisions. It may seem like this does not need to be said, but sometimes organizations want to paint a rosy picture of how things are going. Be honest, make hard decisions when needed, and be sure that you are serving the current needs of your defined service population.

Improved Operational Efficiencies

Accreditation helps an organization use its resources more efficiently and can result in cost savings. Accreditation requirements for clear and detailed written procedures based on well thought out policies can enhance staff performance, improve outcomes, and lead to better communication with, and satisfaction for, the clients. These efficiencies can help retain staff, strengthen relationships with funding and referral sources, and aid in compliance with state or federal regulatory bodies.

TIP: States recognize the positive impact of accreditation and many offer regulatory relief from licensing / certification requirements. Check with your state licensing or certification representative for recognitions of accreditation.

Liability Insurance

Accredited service providers may be eligible for considerations on their insurance policies. The reason is that insurance carriers understand achieving accreditation leads to more robust risk management and risk mitigation efforts, a focus on health and safety, corporate compliance, and ethical business practices. This can lead to lower liability insurance costs over time, which can help offset the initial costs of accreditation.

There is a reason that the first question after the demographics (name, address) on an insurance policy application is “Licensure and Accreditations.”

TIP: You will need to inquire about considerations related to accreditation. If your broker is, for some reason, not familiar with the many benefits of national accreditation, they should be educated on it (feel free to share this article).

Grant Opportunities

Two notes about grants. First, some foundations use accreditation as a qualifier to apply for a grant, while others may use accreditation as an internal selection criteria without formally stating it as a requirement. Why? Because foundations and other funders understand the benefits and importance of earning and maintaining accreditation.

Second, there are grant opportunities out there that can help offset the costs associated with accreditation. While you may not see grants specific to accreditation, many grants will cover some aspects of accreditation and / or fund ways to improve your service programs. The following are examples of areas addressed under accreditation, and a grant related to such can be earmarked to help defray costs:

  • Technology and equipment improvements
  • Strategic planning
  • Quality management programs
  • Capacity building
  • Board development

TIP: The National Council of Nonprofits has a listing of grant research tools, including a listing of state associations of nonprofits, which provides links to state-specific grant databases and member discounts on grant research tools.  https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/running-nonprofit/fundraising-and-resource-development/grant-research-tools. Also, Candid (formerly the Foundation Center) helps nonprofits find funders to support their work through their Foundation Directory (fee-based). https://candid.org

Facilities and Office Space

In some cases, organizations may need to make improvements to their facilities or office space in order to meet accreditation standards. This may require additional funding, which should be factored into the organization’s budget and fundraising plans.

TIP: Have someone other than the Facilities Manager do a walk-through of all residential and operational facilities to review against accreditation standards early on in the process. The “fresh eyes” approach can be very helpful, whether this is conducted by a staff member or an outside consultant.

Ensure Board & Leadership Buy-in

Finally, it is crucial to ensure that the organization’s board and leadership are fully committed to the accreditation process. This includes not only providing the necessary financial resources but also actively participating in the accreditation process and ensuring that the organization meets all of the necessary standards and requirements. Board and leadership buy-in are critical to the success of accreditation, and without this support, the accreditation process may be difficult to achieve or sustain.

Keep in mind, just because you do have board and leadership buy-in does not guarantee an easy road to accreditation, but if you do NOT have this buy-in, you are fairly definite to have problems along the way.

TIP: Meet with the leadership team and board of directors when first considering accreditation to discuss the benefits, accrediting body or bodies being considered, outline the timeline and process, review costs and allow them to ask questions, all with an eye toward building the all-important buy-in.

In conclusion, the decision to pursue accreditation is a significant one for any human service organization. While the costs of accreditation can be significant, they must be weighed against the benefits of improved service delivery, reduced liability risks, and increased organizational efficiency. By carefully considering the costs and benefits of accreditation, organizations can make an informed decision about whether accreditation is the right choice for them and ensure their long-term sustainability and success.

 

For more information or questions about the contents of this article, please write Peggy Lavin @ peggy@accreditationguru.com.   This post contains original content and was written for Accreditation Guru, Inc. Use of this copy is permitted with credit and reference within the same body of copy to Accreditation Guru, Inc.

Where to Start if You’re Considering Accreditation for the First Time

Starting the accreditation process can be overwhelming: from determining which accrediting body to work with, to obtaining buy in from the board of directors and staff, to creating your team. In this video Jennifer highlights initial items to consider when beginning the road to national accreditation.

For assistance with any aspect of accreditation preparation or maintenance of accreditation, please contact us or schedule a free 30-minute consultation meeting.

How long does it take to become accredited?

We are often asked how long it takes to become nationally accredited. Whether you seek accreditation to increase reimbursement rates from private payers, to enhance your organization’s operations and program delivery or due to a mandate under the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), for example, achieving accreditation is a worthy endeavor. However, many organizations underestimate the time commitment involved.
Watch our brief video tip about how to best gauge the time required when preparing for accreditation and visit our blog on “National Accreditation – Where Do We Begin.

How to determine which accrediting body is the right fit for your organization

Selecting a national accrediting body to work with is a significant undertaking. The commitment goes beyond the initial accreditation cycle and, in most cases, it continues for many more years, sometimes even decades. Because of the investment in time, money and effort involved, the selection process should not be taken lightly. Watch our video for tips on determining which accrediting body is the right fit for your organization.

 

What is the importance of an annual plan?

While a strategic plan is the long-term framework for what is to come, an annual plan – or work plan – is staff-driven, designed with specific objectives, outcome measures, and areas of responsibility (including timelines) in order to provide the day-to-day guidelines needed to ensure the strategic goals are ultimately met.

Is Your Accrediting Body Still the Right Fit?

Your organization is not the same one it was 10 or 20 years ago (or likely even 3 years ago!). New programs/services may have been opened and staff changes have taken place. There are new requirements from payors, licensing bodies, the federal government, etc. Perhaps there has been a merger or acquisition, or new partnerships developed with other entities to ensure the continuum of care. Or, you may have directly integrated physical health care into your service delivery or begun to offer telehealth services as a result of the pandemic.

Likewise, the accrediting bodies may have changed over time:

  1. Standards are updated annually – do they still fit with your current program/services?
  2. Has there been a shift by the accrediting body to be more closely aligned with your line of business – toward behavioral health or toward child welfare, for example?
  3. Perhaps there has been a new approach to sales and marketing that could have affected customer service?

When you initially selected your accreditor, you likely considered such things as cost, reputation in the marketplace, and may have had a recommendation from another organization. (See our blog article on 10 Things to Consider When Selecting an Accrediting Body for more information.)

I’m sure that the intent was to do your research and find the best fit for a long-term relationship. However, relationships can change.

So, when do you know if it is time to look around? And, if you do, what questions should you ask?

If you are asking yourself these questions, might I suggest that you consider the following:

  1. Standards – your programs and services’ fit with the current accreditation standards
  2. Reputation – current feedback from other accredited organizations
  3. Mandates – is there a current mandate for accreditation or one on the horizon, and if so, does it specify a particular accrediting body or bodies?
  4. Effort – how much work will it take to switch vs. remain with your existing accreditor*
  5. Costs – fees always matter, but what is the true value of the accreditation process and experience and what is the cost to maintain your accreditation?
  6. Timing – how long have you been with your existing accreditor?

Note, I do not recommend making a change simply for the sake of change. However, it never hurts to look around and ask a few questions to make sure that your accrediting body is still the right fit for today and for the future of your organization.

 

*If already accredited and deciding to make a switch, it is important to focus on the similarities and differences between the two accrediting bodies’ standards and processes for the most effective use of time and resources. It is also critical to understand the different approaches and philosophies from one accrediting body to another.

To further discuss any of the above items, or if you are interested in assistance with switching from one accrediting body to another, please contact us at Info@AccreditationGuru.com / 212.209.0240. This post contains original content and was written for Accreditation Guru, Inc. Use of this copy is permitted with credit and reference within the same body of copy to Accreditation Guru, Inc.

Recommendations on using a consultant for the accreditation process

Is your organization considering accreditation? Here are some recommendations on ways a consultant can assist in your accreditation process.

We are happy to answer any questions on accreditation consulting that you may have. Call us at 212.209.0240 or email Jennifer Flowers

Convenient, Informative Webinars Help Answer Your Questions About Accreditation

Part of our vision at Accreditation Guru is to inform and support organizations that are seeking accreditation. As part of that mission, we were thrilled to co-host a webinar with BestNotes, a healthcare IT software and consulting firm, to explain the accreditation process to their customers.

Many different factors can prompt an organization to pursue accreditation. These drivers may come from internal decisions, such as a commitment to quality and safety, or a desire to attract high-quality employees. Others may be external, such as regulatory or reimbursement requirements.

There are many advantages to accreditation that vary depending on the organization or the accrediting body. In general, some of the biggest advantages include:

  • Improvements to quality and safety
  • Risk reductions
  • Improvements to service delivery
  • Better documentation of organizational plans, policies, and procedures
  • Creating a specific plan to go “above and beyond”

A portion of Accreditation Guru’s webinar with BestNotes examined the similarities and differences between two accrediting bodies: CARF International and The Joint Commission. We compared fee structures, accreditation timelines, the scope of accreditation, and how long it lasts. Webinar attendees were better equipped to decide which accrediting body to partner with.

We specifically focused on these two organizations because they were the most relevant to BestNotes’ customers, which primarily included behavioral health and substance use disorder treatment providers. However, Accreditation Guru has experience with a variety of other accrediting bodies.

Because BestNotes is an electronic health record (EHR) software provider, we specifically discussed how an EHR can help behavioral health organizations prepare for accreditation and maintain compliance afterward. This includes encouraging better documentation, collecting and analyzing data, and making billing more efficient.

We always recommend that behavioral health providers implementing an EHR system do so as soon as possible when pursuing accreditation. This will give staff plenty of time to learn the software and give the organization time to troubleshoot any issues. This helps the provider prepare for accreditation more effectively and reap the benefits of an effective EHR.

During this webinar, we were able to share specific, relevant insights learned from our years of experience with the accreditation process. We explained some of Accreditation Guru’s additional services, including strategic planning, board development and training, risk assessment, and project management. We concluded the webinar with a Q&A segment for all participants.

“BestNotes was happy to partner with Accreditation Guru to present this webinar to our customers,” says Jon Winther, MBA, Chief Marketing Officer at BestNotes. “A lot of our customers are behavioral health providers in their ‘startup’ stage and just beginning to explore their accreditation options. Accreditation Guru shared information tailored to their specific needs, in an easy to understand format, with plenty of time for questions at the end. Our customers really appreciated the insights and felt better prepared to pursue accreditation for their facilities.”

Accreditation Guru has hosted similar webinars with other IT companies, insurance brokers, and billing companies. In each case, our webinar is tailored to the audience, providing relevant information for their specific accreditation process.

Interested in partnering with Accreditation Guru, or co-hosting a webinar for your own customers? We’d love to talk to you about how best to answer their questions and share expertise that can guide them on their accreditation journey. To learn more, get in touch with Peggy Lavin, LCSW, Director of Behavioral Marketing at Peggy@AccreditationGuru.com today!