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.

How Accreditation Supports Mergers and Acquisitions

Since 2018, there has been significant merger and acquisition activity in the behavioral healthcare field, but why? Individuals are becoming more aware of healthcare issues; there is less stigma about seeking help for mental health struggles; and more effective treatments are now available. This has created increased demand for and use of mental health and addiction treatment services, as well as channeling more funding towards meeting the demand and growing need. Not only this, but as individuals, including professionals, gain understanding of the link between mental and physical wellbeing, more integration of physical and behavioral health care is occurring. So, where does accreditation come in?

There are a number of accrediting bodies that work to ensure providers of substance use disorder treatment and mental health services meet specific, nationally accepted standards, including The Joint Commission, CARF International, Council on Accreditation (a service of Social Current) and others.

Accreditation requirements (standards of safety and quality of care) center around three main areas: documentation, facilities, and people. Documentation standards focus on written plans; polices and procedures; clinical records; and personnel files. For people, standards address not only the care of the persons served, but also those that provide it. Facility standards ensure that the physical environment where care is being provided is safe, healthy, and therapeutic for everyone within. All these standards create stability within an organization, which is a favorable factor in M&A activity.

Achieving accreditation also gives a behavioral health organization a framework for growth and management of their internal resources. It helps to standardize clinical processes and documentation and provides an external validation of the quality of services provided. Accredited organizations will often see increased efficiencies from improved practice consistency, tightened administrative practices, and an increased emphasis on risk management. Because of accreditation requirements, organizations will inevitably have a broader view and a more detailed approach to risk mitigation and risk management than they’re doing on their own.

For an investor looking to acquire a service provider, seeing that a facility is accredited can provide peace of mind. Accreditation indicates that an organization has gone through the work to create a strategic plan, comply with legal and regulatory requirements, and has implemented quality monitoring practices. All of which assist with due diligence, both on the administrative and clinical sides. Investors can also be assured that the facility’s finances are well managed, as accreditation speaks to sound financial management practices. There are even a number of reports that say accreditation reduces staff turnover, which can save an organization money and maintain a high-quality workforce.

Another part of due diligence is examination of litigation and claims history of an organization. Have there been any lawsuits filed or any pending? What is the frequency and severity of claims? Are there identifiable patterns and trends? What steps were taken to reduce the chance of reoccurrence? Accreditation supports this type of investigation by helping to maintain a positive history by proactive identification of risk and finding ways to mitigate or eliminate it where possible. Secondly, it encourages a performance improvement process that requires collection and analysis of key data and then taking action for improvement. Additionally, accreditation promotes a safe and healthy physical environment with requirements for emergency and disaster planning.

If your organization is going through a merger or considering accreditation, you are not alone! Accreditation Guru operates nationwide and provides a number of services to guide you through the process, such as:

  • Individual accreditation consultation
  • Mock surveys
  • Development of accreditation-compliant plans and policies
  • Risk assessment
  • Strategic planning facilitation
  • And more…

If you would like to have a conversation, please feel free to contact us via our website or schedule a free Zoom consultation with one of our experts.

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.

Benefits of Accreditation for Continuing Education and Training Programs

Accreditation is a process by which an educational or training program is evaluated by an independent accrediting body to determine if it meets certain standards of quality and rigor. Accreditation can be an important factor in the success of continuing education and training (CE/T) programs, both for the program itself and for the students (learners) who participate in it. In this article, we will explore the benefits of accreditation for continuing education and training programs, including its impact on employability, reputation, and competitiveness.

Employability of Graduates in a Variety of Job Markets

One of the primary benefits of accreditation for continuing education and training programs is its impact on the employability of graduates in a variety of job markets. Employers have increased trust in the competency of graduates from accredited programs, which can give these individuals an edge when applying for jobs. For example, in the healthcare field, accredited nursing programs are often preferred by employers because they demonstrate that graduates have received the necessary training to provide high-quality patient care. Similarly, in the technology industry, graduates of accredited computer science programs are seen as having the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the field.

Competitive Advantage for the Training Program

Accreditation can also help a continuing education or training program stand out from the competition and develop a reputation for excellence. Accreditation can be a useful marketing tool for attracting new students and demonstrating the quality of the program. For example, a training program that is accredited by a respected agency may be more likely to attract students than a program that is not accredited. Additionally, accreditation can help a program differentiate itself from other programs in the same field, which can be particularly important in industries where competition for students is high.

Strategic Edge for the Employer

Accreditation can also give employers a competitive edge by demonstrating that their employees have received high-quality training. When employers hire graduates of accredited programs, they can be confident that these employees have the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in their roles. Additionally, accreditation can demonstrate that the employer is committed to providing high-quality training for their employees, which can be an important factor in attracting and retaining top talent. For example, a hospital that hires nurses from accredited programs may be seen as providing better patient care than hospitals that do not require accreditation.

Distinctive Advantage for the Student

Finally, accreditation can increase the value of a student’s training and qualifications, which can lead to higher salaries and better benefits. When learners complete an accredited program, they can be confident that they have received training that meets quality educational practices. This can make them more attractive to employers and increase their earning potential. For example, graduates of accredited engineering programs often command higher salaries than graduates of non-accredited programs. Additionally, some employers offer higher salaries and better benefits to employees who have received training from accredited programs, which can further enhance the value of accreditation for students.

Conclusion

Accreditation is an important factor in the success of continuing education and training programs, both for the program itself and for the students who participate in it. Accreditation can enhance the employability of graduates, give programs a competitive edge, and increase the value of students’ training and qualifications. As such, it is important for students to seek out accredited programs when considering their educational or training options. Additionally, training programs should strive to achieve accreditation to demonstrate their commitment to providing high-quality training and attract students and employers who value this level of standards of excellence.

If you have a continuing education or training program that could benefit from earning national accreditation, please contact us to discuss your unique needs and timeline.

 

***Note, the benefits discussed here are applicable to a wide variety of CE/T subject matters. They are also applicable whether the CE/T organization is accredited by IACET, ACCET, or those accrediting organizations recognized by the Council for Higher Education (CHEA) for institutions of higher education.

New Year – New Accreditation

Ringing in the New Year brings about a mindset of reflectiveness and a desire for transformation. As the calendar changes over, people are given the chance for a fresh start and are once again motivated to push themselves towards goals that had been previously set aside. These objectives are often personal, but what if you want to improve more than just yourself? What if, in 2023, you want to see the whole of your organization grow and flourish in a way that benefits both your employees and your clients? In that case, there’s no better time to start pursuing accreditation!

Accreditation goes beyond simple certification: it ensures that an institution adheres to nationally recognized standards centered on safety and quality care. Individuals seeking out treatment for themselves, or for a loved one, know that an accredited facility will have commitment to higher standards and monitor their operations on a regular basis, which provides a sense of security for everyone involved. Beyond this, accreditation will improve the environment of the organization as a whole by streamlining procedures and implementing easily-followed structures for staff and leadership

Some benefits of accreditation include…

  • Improves quality outcomes
  • Internal standardization of processes
  • External validation of the quality of programs and services
  • Increased efficiencies from improved practice consistency
  • Tightens administrative practices
  • Focus on staff recruitment, training, supervision, and retention
  • Increased emphasis on risk management
  • Improves credibility and boosts reputation
  • Improved competencies of supervisors and staff
  • Increased revenue

With the new year comes an opportunity for new focus, and whether you’ve been considering accreditation for a while or it’s only just come to mind, 2023 is the perfect year to get started. Even if you’re already accredited, time needs to be devoted to proactively maintaining your accredited status. Taking a moment to review your policies in preparation for your next survey can ensure it will be a smooth and seamless process, and perhaps it’s time to consider if your current accrediting body is still the right fit for your organization.

If you’d like to learn more about how Accreditation Guru can help make your life easier when it comes to preparing for (re)accreditation or maintaining your accredited status, feel free to contact us or schedule a 30-minute Zoom call with one of our experts.

For more information or questions about the contents of this article, please write or call Jennifer Flowers @ Jennifer@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.

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.

What does accreditation mean for human service organizations?

Achieving accreditation is recognition that your organization adheres to a higher level of standards; that you are producing high quality services; and are operating at an effective level as recognized by an expert outside agency.

Five Reasons for Substance Use Treatment Providers to Become Accredited

Substance use disorder treatment providers have many reasons to seek national accreditation and to benefit from this process. Whether seeking accreditation from The Joint Commission, CARF International, Council on Accreditation (a division of Social Current), Accreditation Commission for Health Care (ACHC), or other, here are 5 top reasons to become accredited:

Reason #1 – Promotes Quality Treatment in a Safe and Healthy Environment

An external survey of quality and safety conducted by well-trained professional accrediting body surveyors provides reassurance and builds trust for the individual, family, or referral source seeking a treatment resource. The accreditation hallmark distinguishes a treatment resource as going beyond minimum state licensing standards. Accrediting bodies promote accredited organizations on their websites so that parents, individuals, and healthcare professionals can easily identify treatment resources with the accreditation hallmark of distinction.

Reason #2 – Strengthens Business Practices

Accreditation standards address ethical marketing practices, require transparency in plans and policies, look for actions taken based on staff and consumer feedback, and promotes equity in treatment based on the person’s needs.

Reason #3 – Standardizes Administrative and Clinical Processes

Accreditation supports consistent delivery of good care to every consumer. It requires a multi-dimensional assessment (best practice) so that each consumer is receiving exactly the care and treatment needed by competent and qualified staff. The standardization of processes provides a framework for increasing service capacity, allowing for expansion of levels of care, new programs and services, and treatment at additional locations.

Reason #4 – Expands Reimbursement Options

Accreditation is increasingly being used as an indicator of quality by third-party payers as a condition of substance use treatment payment approval. Private, commercial insurance companies, and managed care entities require accreditation to become an “approved” provider. The accreditation hallmark of quality and safety may also result in more diversified referral sources as healthcare professionals recognize the organization’s commitment to quality and safety.

Reason #5 – Supports Efficient and Effective Billing

Being reimbursed in a timely manner is a critical business practice component for any substance use treatment provider. The clinical documentation required by accrediting bodies supports and justifies admissions (medical necessity of services), level of care, treatment interventions, continued stay/treatment, and transfer or discharge. This type of clinical documentation reduces denials of reimbursement or provides the documentation needed for appeals of denials.

The results of a recent study of Joint Commission accredited organizations by ROI Institute supports National Accreditation and identifies returns on accreditation investment.

If you are ready to reap the benefits of accreditation for your organization, or if you have questions about the process, please contact us.

 

For more information or questions about the contents of this article, please write or call Peggy Lavin @ Peggy@AccreditationGuru.com / 847.219.1296.

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.