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!

What is Accreditation?

Accreditation is a review process to determine if human service, healthcare or educational programs demonstrate their ability to meet defined standards of quality. Once achieved, accreditation is not permanent—it is renewed periodically to ensure that quality is maintained.

Requirements differ per accrediting body, but the intent remains the same: to validate an organization’s commitment to meeting accreditation standards that result in a higher level of performance. Accreditation standards have been researched, vetted and field-tested and are updated regularly, as necessary.

Earning accreditation specifies that the organization (or specific program) is appropriately managing its resources and is continually providing the highest levels of service to its clients and stakeholders. Being accredited provides credibility and helps validate and improve the safety and quality of care an organization provides.

Organizations need to demonstrate conformance with the accrediting body’s requirements by implementing the accreditation standards and undergoing an onsite survey or, more recently due to the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual review.

For human service and healthcare organizations, the broad purposes of accreditation are to establish quality measurement criteria and to raise the level of services and professionalism within a given profession or industry (QUALITY) and to ensure services are delivered in a safe manner and in a safe environment (SAFETY).

Becoming accredited offers organizations professional recognition for meeting the highest standards in quality service delivery while providing clients with an appropriate tool for effectively evaluating service providers. Organizations that achieve accreditation have reached beyond the minimum licensing standards and made a long-term commitment to strong management, program consistency, outcome measurements and continuous improvement throughout their agencies.

Accreditation standards address such areas as:

  • Leadership and governance
  • Financial controls
  • Facilities security and safety
  • Workforce development – recruiting, hiring practices, background checks, performance appraisals, training and supervision
  • Performance measurement and improvement
  • Client rights and confidentiality
  • Program administration and service delivery

With all of the needed information in-hand during a survey, the accrediting body will determine whether accreditation has been earned and, if so, will accredit the organization accordingly.

The entire process may take anywhere from 12 to 18 months to complete. For behavioral health and social service organizations, accreditation is valid for 3 or 4 years and there is another full survey at the end of each accreditation cycle.

While accreditation is generally a private (non-governmental), voluntary process, it is often a significant decision-making consideration by potential clients, individual donors, foundations, governmental funding agencies, and billing and private insurance companies.

Here are just a few of the businesses and nonprofits that value the benefits of maintaining accreditation within their respective industries:

  • Mental healthcare and substance use treatment facilities
  • Service providers for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities
  • Foster care and adoption agencies
  • Group homes/residential treatment for children and youth
  • Early childhood education centers and day care providers
  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes and assisted living facilities
  • Medical laboratories and blood banks
  • Credit counseling agencies
  • Colleges and universities – must be accredited by one of the federally-recognized accreditors for students to be eligible for U.S. federal student aid
  • Continuing education providers
  • Museums
  • Aquariums and zoos – Accreditation from angelfish to zebras!

More often than not, many people don’t realize how often accreditation actually touches their lives. Accreditation is everywhere!

If you are ready to explore how accreditation could be a benefit to 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 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.

10 Steps to Selecting an Accrediting Body

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.

Accrediting Bodies

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[1] 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:

  1. Determine if the accrediting bodies being considered are approved by federal or state authorities to meet your organization’s applicable mandates or recognitions.
  2. Check partner or “sister” organizations for accreditation status and decide if it would be helpful for all to use the same accrediting body.
  3. Look for any potential mergers or acquisitions on the horizon.
  4. Determine if your organization is medically based or looking for partnerships or referrals from the physical healthcare market.
  5. Determine the direct accreditation costs. Each accrediting body will be happy to give you an estimate.
  6. Determine if your goal is to accredit a specific program or service or all your programs/services.
  7. Know your baseline — Take Accreditation Guru’s free Accreditation Readiness Assessment online at https://accreditationguru.com.
  8. Obtain and review the accreditation standards from each accrediting body.
  9. Check with your payers (Medicaid, private commercial insurances, Title IV-E for QRTPs) to verify which accrediting body is approved for reimbursement.
  10. 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 info@accreditationguru.com or 212-945-8504.

Best of luck!

[1] 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.

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.

 

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Accreditation Maintenance: Key to Continued Achievement

Congratulations! You’ve worked hard to earn accreditation, which affirms that you meet designated national industry standards, and that you are focused on supporting your staff, organization-wide continuous improvement and most importantly, supporting positive outcomes for those in your care. You and your colleagues celebrated the achievement and have now returned to your daily routines with renewed vigor.

It’s easy to forget, however, that the countdown to reaccreditation begins the day you achieve your goal. Depending on the accrediting body, your organization will go through a reaccreditation review every 3 or 4 years and you will be required to submit annual accreditation reports. Complicating matters, accreditation standards are generally updated annually.

Here’s the good news:  With an accreditation maintenance plan – your organization can and should experience the initial accreditation effort as the ‘heaviest lift’.  In other words, by taking a few simple steps, reaccreditation should not be as time consuming or detailed as the initial accreditation process.

Maintenance can be as easy as a periodic check in or a more thorough review of standards.  Either way, the goal is to ensure the appropriate documentation is gathered along the way, rather than scramble to get everything together when the deadline approaches

Of course, every organization has different needs, so AG has developed a few different Accreditation Maintenance Plans to meet those needs.  Some agencies find that a few hours of focus per quarter at their discretion is enough to allow questions to be answered and updates reviewed, others prefer a more scheduled check in, and standards updates that we track on their behalf.  Whatever the need, we have found that given the time and resources spent achieving this initial distinction, working to proactively maintain accreditation for the long term will not only continue to strengthen your organization’s operations but it will improve services as it makes the reaccreditation process more efficient and effortless.

The bottom line:  The key to continued achievement is to establish a pattern of maintenance in your organization with continued focus on the overall implementation of accreditation standards, including client safety, risk management and performance and quality improvement.

Here are some ideas to consider when thinking about accreditation maintenance:

  • An effective and sustainable performance and quality improvement program must be clearly demonstrated as an ongoing part of the agency’s operations from year to year.
  • Best practices include sharing quarterly and annual performance summary reports with staff and board members. Annually sharing key performance metrics with various stakeholder groups to demonstrate increased transparency and open communications should also be considered.
  • An annual calendar of accreditation milestones helps keep your organization on track for reaccreditation and provides a solid review of the progress you’ve made to proactively prepare for the process.

If your organization needs help establishing or maintaining any of the accreditation standards or implementing ideas noted above, Accreditation Guru can help.  We place an emphasis on performance and quality improvement, risk management, annual reporting requirements, and updates to standards as they pertain specifically to your organization.  Check out our plans here or contact us directly for more information.

8 Questions to Ask When Starting on the Road to Accreditation

I am often approached by people who are just beginning on the road to national accreditation and have no idea where to start. Our conversations tend to follow a similar path, including which accrediting body they should work with (read here for 10 Steps to Selecting an Accrediting Body).

As part of our conversations, I often ask them questions to consider when planning for accreditation. I thought it would be helpful to share them with you here:

  1. Do I know how to best “sell” accreditation to my board of directors and staff? (click here for a video with tips) https://accreditationguru.com/how-best-sell-accreditation/
  2. What policies and procedures need to be written or updated to map to both the accreditation and licensing standards and current operations?
  3. All staff trained on procedures pertaining to emergency response preparedness and infection control and safety?
  4. Would it be helpful to conduct a mock survey? If so, who will complete it?
  5. Do we have documented stakeholder input in our quality improvement and risk management efforts? Do we even have quality improvement and risk management programs in place??
  6. Do our facilities need improvements to pass an accreditation survey? Yes, facilities are still reviewed during a virtual survey.
  7. Who will be our Accreditation Coordinator and who will be part of the Accreditation Team?
  8. Do we need assistance from an outside consultant to bring in expertise with our selected accrediting body, help streamline the accreditation process and provide much needed project management? Accreditation Guru is here to help!

Wishing you all the best on your accreditation journey! Please contact us with any questions or to explore assistance options.

Who should an organization have directly or indirectly involved in the accreditation process?

In this short video, Jennifer explains which teams’ and individuals’ involvement  are required for a successful accreditation outcome.