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!

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.

Accrediting Bodies Offer New Ways To Continue Accreditation Efforts

(Re)accreditation is often an important component of an organization’s strategic planning.  For congregate living facilities (residential or group home settings) seeking reimbursement under Title IV-E as a qualified residential treatment program (QRTP), achieving or maintaining accreditation by an approved accrediting body is a required component of strategic planning.    

Likewise, (re)accreditation may also be required to obtain/maintain license/certification for an organization to operate/deliver services or for reimbursement through commercial or public health insurance.   

Fortunately, all three accrediting bodies have found efficient and meaningful ways to continue their work so organizations can continue in their accreditation efforts.  

CARF International:   

CARF’s Digitally Enhanced Site Surveys have been occurring since mid-May and CARF advises Accreditation Guru (AG) that this process has been met with very positive responses from its programs.   

Council on Accreditation (COA) 

Effective July 1, COA is providing virtual options for site visits and will work with each organization to determine most appropriate option.  Having an onsite presence is part of some of the COA options. 

The Joint Commission:  

The virtual survey option offered since June by The Joint Commission for behavioral health care accreditation of Opioid Treatment Programs (OTPs) will be expanded to include a virtual survey option for organizations meeting Joint Commission eligibility requirements (including certain technology capabilities).  On-site survey is also an option for some organizations in geographic areas identified as low risk by Joint Commission leadership – details here. 

All three accrediting bodies are asking organizations to confirm with applicable federal/state/local regulators that virtual site visits/surveys are acceptable.  (AG has been advised by The Joint Commission that the US Administration of Children and Families has approved virtual surveying for Qualified Residential Treatment Programs (QRTPs) if accepted by any related state regulatory authority).   

Accreditation Guru assists organizations in creating a customized (re)accreditation timeline based on its strategic planning and provides support along the way to successfully meet each milestone.  A re(accreditation) calendar provides a visual tool to keep leadership and staff focused for an efficient process. 

If you have questions on (re)accreditation please contact us – 212.209.0240 or email info@accreditationguru.com

Accreditation’s Significance in Time of Crisis

Since late February 2020, child welfare agencies and behavioral health care organizations have been forced to focus on two critical functions – infection control and emergency management. Depending on the services provided and location of the organization, providers have been forced to change their operations in ways that include having all employees work remotely, provide telehealth services or even “closing the gates” and delivering residential services without people going on or off the property.

In these trying times, the framework provided by implementing national accreditation standards certainly helps service providers better manage the necessary pivot in operations and service delivery in this time of crisis.

Accreditation Standards – Detailed Plans and Strategic Safety Net

Accreditation standards that address risk prevention and management, infection prevention and control, performance and quality improvement, technology and information management and staff training are all being put to the test these days.

Effective risk management controls include, but are not limited to, emergency response preparedness. An accredited agency is required to have a written disaster plan for evacuation and relocation of staff and clients, parent-child reunification following a disaster, as well as specific plans to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities and other special needs during emergencies. The organization must also address coordination with governmental authorities and emergency responders. Further, staff needs to be trained on how to respond to medical threats and emergencies and how to handle potential safety risks they may encounter on the job.

Accreditation (maintenance and preparation) guides an organization through a thoughtful, structured and planned process to create an infrastructure for risk management and performance improvement that can be seamlessly implemented during times of crisis like this one.

The accreditation process also helps organizations review and strengthen their policies and practices through compliance with national standards of care. This includes creating processes for gathering and using data for continuous improvement of the quality of the services provided. It is not enough to collect and analyze data related to outputs such as the number of clinical sessions provided or the total number of clients served, but they also must identify, observe and measure the effects of a program’s services on clients.

“Plan and procedures for disaster readiness are a lived concept for CARF-accredited organizations. The readiness mindset of our programs has helped organizations and their staff to transition services to better support children and families during this pandemic.” – Leslie Ellis-Lang, MMFT, Managing Director, CARF Child and Youth Services *

Technology-Based Service Delivery – AKA Telehealth

Due to the pandemic and resulting COVID-19 funding legislation that now expands coverage for telehealth services for Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries, a vast number of service providers were given the opportunity to make a seemingly overnight shift to employees working remotely and providing telehealth services.

The existing accreditation standards in place that address the management of technology-based service delivery allow companies to reference their strategic plan and immediately embrace the full-time use of this technology.

Any accredited organization that engages or plans to engage service recipients in technology-based service delivery needs to develop policies and procedures to guide telehealth service delivery to address privacy and security measures. They must also assess the appropriateness of technology-based service delivery for each individual and monitor effectiveness of using this model.

Accreditation standards further address competency-based training for personnel on the use of equipment and software, privacy and confidentiality issues, and recognizing and responding to emergency or crisis situations from a remote location.

While many organizations may not have developed a detailed pandemic response plan, wouldn’t it have been helpful to have already addressed and planned for the use of telehealth services and having employees work remotely under the framework of accreditation standards?

Accreditation Drivers

“Accreditation is not just a box to tick and this is even more apparent during times of crisis,” says Jody Levison-Johnson, President and CEO, Council on Accreditation (COA). “COA has standards that address key preparedness and response issues. These fall under the broad standards categories of human resources management, safety and security, and emergency preparedness – all of which are critical during times of crisis.” *

The three major accrediting bodies for human service organizations (CARF International Council on Accreditation and The Joint Commission) research and develop their unique set of accreditation standards that address a commitment to helping child welfare and behavior health care organizations provide safe and high-quality care, treatment or service. Applying the standards often leads to an increase in consumer confidence in service delivery. Read “Increasing Consumer Confidence Through Accreditation“.

“(The Joint Commission) recognizes the challenges behavioral healthcare organizations are facing during this difficult time and we want to hear from all behavioral health care providers what else we can do to help.” – Julia Finken, Executive Director, Behavioral Health Care Accreditation *

This Too Shall Pass

“This too shall pass” is comforting and indeed it will (or be better controlled). But, as the pandemic stretches on and businesses start to develop a “new normal” for addressing the various health and economic needs of the public at large, a pre-laid foundation of strategic plans and detailed response initiatives can provide a more effective pivot for a company.

Is your organization one of them? By scheduling time to focus on accreditation, you can address key initiatives now and stay ahead of the game in the future. Don’t delay your preparation for achieving accreditation. Develop a work schedule that includes accreditation preparation whether you are applying for the first time or maintaining your status.

Keep Your Momentum Going!

*For additional information from the accrediting bodies:

CARF International

COA “Preparing for Response to COVID-19”

The Joint Commission

Accreditation In Action – Congratulations HeartShare and HeartShare St. Vincent’s Services of New York City!

We congratulate HeartShare Human Services of New York and HeartShare St. Vincent’s Services of New York City on receiving their re-accreditation through COA, Council On Accreditation!

Since its founding in 1914, HeartShare and its Family of Services has expanded to more than 100 program sites in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island and operates in 60 of the 62 New York counties through energy grants. HeartShare’s responsiveness to the needs of the New York community guides its innovation. When the community desired special education classrooms, HeartShare opened a school for children with autism. When young adults aging out of foster care required a safety net, HeartShare St. Vincent’s Services created the American Dream Program to help youth achieve their college and career dreams.

“Imagine that you are coordinating two re-accreditations for large multi-service organizations at the same time. Accreditation Guru worked diligently with us to make sure our responses were clear and concise, turning this into a learning process that helped our organizations strengthen their best practices and alleviate challenges. In the end, we not only submitted our self-studies three days before the due date, but also received two expedited re-accreditations. This would have been impossible without the assistance of Accreditation Guru.” – Stanley Capela, Vice President of Quality Management

For more information on HeartShare Human Services of New York – visit their website.

For more information on HeartShare St. Vincent’s Services of New York City – visit their website here.

Accreditation In Action – Congratulations Shamah Autism Center!

We congratulate Shamah Autism Center on achieving their three-year accreditation through CARF International!

Shamah Autism Center, located in Saudi Arabia, is a special education school providing education for children 3 to 12 years with autism spectrum disorders, Asperger syndrome and associated social and communication difficulties.
“We are extremely grateful for Accreditation Guru for the consultation services provided throughout our survey preparation process. We extend special thanks and appreciation to Carol Smith for her time and effort to support Shamah Autism Center to obtain the three-year CARF accreditation. She was always accessible, and ready to answer all our questions and guide us. The online mock survey helped us figure out the areas needing improvement and thus be well-prepared for the survey. CARF surveyors were very impressed with our readiness. We strongly recommend Accreditation Guru for any organization seeking CARF accreditation.” – Sokynah Al-abkari, Quality Assurance Specialist, Shamah Autism Center.
To learn more about this organization – visit their website.

Wisdom and Value in Strategic Planning

By Dave Branding, PhD

One of my absolute favorite days of the work year calendar is strategic planning. I look forward to this special opportunity when key leaders come together and focus. We scan the environment, assess our positions, incorporate input, determine goals and set priorities for how we intend to perform the important work together in alignment.

Of course, strategic planning is less a day and more an ongoing, evolving process that often includes an identifiable day when teams actively plan together. From my position as a CEO, the value is having key leaders and governing bodies hear the same information and build consensus regarding the way forward.

Imagine YOUR key stakeholders forecasting, projecting and designing elements of a future together. It’s a joy to have teams listen intently, brainstorm and contribute insights in a safe, positive setting. The goal is to find a collective, coherent way forward despite operating in risk-bearing, fiscally challenging and often ambiguous environments. How empowering!

The strategic plan, when thoughtfully developed, might be the single greatest gift that boards and leadership teams can give each other and ultimately to the community served.

Providing a concise framework for strategic planning, accreditation standards emphasize what should be considered in the ongoing planning process, how the plan itself is to be developed, what it must include and how it is maintained and shared with others.

In my experience as a CARF surveyor, one frequently missed standard is ensuring that the plan reflects financial positioning at the time it’s drafted and at projected points in the future.

Organizations achieve substantial conformance by paying attention to detail in documentation and using the actual standards as an outline for the content generated by the process, which informs the resulting written plan.

The Planning Process

In our organization, planning practices have evolved over many years and are constantly being refined.  Rough outlines guiding the planning process, collected formally and informally, are written on large paper pages displayed around the room for reference by everyone.

For our first step, the leadership team and governing board meet together and we facilitate the meeting ourselves. Other organizations find it helpful to use an external facilitator.

We update everyone on the status of the existing plan, acknowledging those items that are completed , note others that are still in process and jettison the ones that will not be pursued.  We use a large electronic screen to update a simple SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis and spend most of the time brainstorming priority areas for our efforts, which are recorded on large sheets of paper.

Further discussion, reorganization and prioritization helps us solidify the plan’s rough content. In the following days, we draft a brief, concise document that is shared with the leadership team and governance board for input and revisions.

Successful Implementation

Last year, we then shared our draft goals and objectives with all 60 staff members throughout our organization and used a nominal voting process to solicit everyone’s input and document priorities.

We listed strategic opportunities on large post-it sheets around the room and everyone voted by placing stickers next to the issues they thought to be most important.  This input also factored strongly into the development of our final written plan.

Ultimately, the governing board approves the strategic plan’s final draft, which is implemented with at least twice-annual updates that are submitted to the board. This year, we are trying a Gantt chart format to more clearly specify when each element of the plan initiates and concludes.

We also seek input and feedback to strengthen our planning process for the coming year by sharing elements of the plan at key community stakeholders meetings, distributing reports to all staff members and holding regular meetings with the people we serve – tailoring content to each audience, as appropriate. Other organizations use their website to share strategic directions with a broader audience.

There is strong wisdom and incredible value in the alignment of people, ideas, resources and purposeful work that’s specified in a well-developed strategic plan, which helps us implement continuous, organization-wide quality improvement and sustainability more than any other initiative or directive.

Accreditation Guru can help you and your colleagues achieve a strategic planning process that meets your needs while conforming to accreditation standards that help your organization Prepare for Greatness

Dave is CEO at JAMHI Health & Wellness in Juneau, Alaska, a CARF surveyor and a consultant with Accreditation Guru.

For assistance with your strategic planning, please contact us at 212.209.0240 or email Rocio@AccreditationGuru.com.

 

Happy Birthday FFPSA! Now in Effect, New Law is Changing Child Welfare Services

Individuals, agencies and associations in the child welfare space have been preparing for the initial implementation date of the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) even before it was signed into law in February of last year.

This act, which aims to change the face of child welfare in the United States, required implementation by October 1, 2019, unless a particular state opted to delay enforcing its provisions for up to two years. At last count, only nine states, plus the District of Columbia, are planning for early (2019) implementation of FFPSA.

For more than a year, Jennifer Flowers, CEO of Accreditation Guru, has delivered numerous presentations around the country about FFPSA’s accreditation mandate for a new category of congregate care providers: Qualified Residential Treatment Providers (QRTPs).

In addition to solo speaking appearances, she has moderated numerous panels with top administrators from the three accrediting bodies approved under FFPSA (CARF International, Council on Accreditation and The Joint Commission) at a variety of major conferences. Specifically, Jennifer has spoken for the Association of Children’s Residential Centers, Family Focused Treatment Association, Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Children’s Defense Fund, among many others.

It’s fitting that on October 1, the birthday of FFPSA’s implementation, Jennifer moderated a panel at the Texas Child Care Administrators Conference, which included panelists representing the three approved accrediting bodies as well as Kristene Blackstone, Associate Commissioner for Child Protective Services in Texas – one of the largest CPS programs in the nation. Following Jennifer’s summary of FFPSA and what it means to become a QRTP, the panel launched into a lively discussion about accreditation and the rollout of FFPSA in the State of Texas.

For more information about FFPSA, visit AG’s webpage devoted to this topic. And, for inquiries about assistance with preparing for national accreditation or for information about Jennifer Flowers speaking at your event, please contact Rocio@AccreditationGuru.com.

Why Hire a Consultant?

Individuals reach out to relatives, friends and other trusted advisors for relationship, financial or career help all the time. So why are many businesses reluctant to hire a consultant?

Some reasons for this resistance include institutional inertia, fear of seeming weak or ineffective and a lack of awareness that a different perspective can provide big dividends.

Companies that consider – or are required – to seek accreditation may think that the process is just a rubber stamp and underestimate the task ahead.

Though many boards and executives only contemplate hiring a consultant when things go south, there are many good reasons to get advice from an experienced consultant when the situation warrants.

Growing Pains

Here’s a familiar scenario in the non-profit world: the board is raising money, staff is hired and the vision is being executed. However, growing demand for services outstrips the capacity of the organization to scale up.

In other cases, the mission expands into new, related opportunities that pull non-profits into unforeseen directions.

These seem like good problems to have, but when you’re faced with an unexpected crisis or an overload of decisions to be made, having a consultant who can see through the fog and help vet options is invaluable.

Few non-profits possess the capacity to undertake their own competitive and/or market research to support decision-making, help your team develop an action plan and set goals and priorities.

Conflict Resolution

It happens all the time: two powerful individuals or factions within an organization clash over direction or policy. Is providing human services to the vulnerable enough or should the non-profit lobby for new laws to deal with the underlying issues causing the problems?

There is a reason why arbitrators, mediators and the court system exist: to serve as neutral, unbiased third-party judges to either make a decision or help develop an agreement for moving forward.

When different opinions hinder the ability of board and staff leaders to settle on priorities, paid consultants can help organizations move beyond the debate, try to develop a consensus and get back on track to fulfill the organization’s original mission. And they cost a lot less than lawyers.

Navigating the Unknown

Leadership transitions or succession issues can tear non-profits apart. This is one reason why sports teams have coaches: when the top players move on or retire, the deck has to be reshuffled. Professional facilitators can help develop a strategic plan and prepare your board and staff leadership for seamless change and determine the best path to ensure future stability.

Through the Viewfinder

When competing priorities or sudden crises emerge, consultants can help focus on the most important ways to deal with adversity. They can be tasked with developing a ranked, detailed action plan throughout the collaboration so that there’s buy-in from every level of your organization.

For help getting everyone to share goals, implement effective tactics, develop timelines and achieve measurable outcomes, consultants are in a unique position to rally the forces and foster lasting growth and sustainability.

Time Savings

When it comes to navigating the accreditation process, hiring the right consultant can save time (and money).

At Accreditation Guru, our team experts have gained valuable and actionable experience in the field. They know exactly what the accrediting bodies are looking for and how best to compile organization data and information.

But achieving accreditation is an involved process that will require your employees to spend less time on their day-to-day responsibilities. To ensure efficient time management, our consultants go beyond providing training functions and serve as sounding boards to answer questions from staff so no one is spinning their wheels or getting lost in a rabbit hole trying to figure out what the accreditation standards mean.

Rather than serve as a sign of weakness, hiring consultants marks a bold, brave move that can provide lasting benefits far beyond the immediate cost. And achieving accreditation will help increase credibility and stability. Don’t leave your destiny to chance!

To schedule a call with Jennifer Flowers for your accreditation needs, contact us at Info@AccreditationGuru.com or 212.209.0240.

EAGLE Recognized now as an Approved Accreditor for QRTPs Under the Family First Prevention Services Act

On May 15, it was announced that EAGLE Accreditation Program is recognized by the Department of Health and Human Services as an approved accreditor for Qualified Residential Treatment Programs (QRTPs) under the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA). As we have discussed here, FFPSA, which passed in February 2018, allows federal funds to be spent on preventative services to help keep families together and also restricts funding on congregate care or group homes for children and youth who require removal from their families. In part, FFPSA mandates that all residential treatment providers convert to QRTPs, a new licensing category, in order to be eligible for reimbursement through Title IV-E foster care funds after the first two weeks of child placement.

One of the requirements to become a QRTP is to be accredited by CARF, COA, The Joint Commission and now, for the first time, EAGLE Accreditation.

EAGLE, which stands for Educational Assessment Guidelines Leading toward Excellence, is the only faith-based accrediting body in the country. It focuses on ministries serving older adults, children, youth and families, and those with developmental disabilities with emphasis on excellence, quality and how applicant organizations incorporate their Christian mission, religious heritage and values throughout the organization and its daily operations. EAGLE accreditation has provided an option for faith-based organizations since 1984.

The EAGLE Accreditation Program is operated by the United Methodist Association of Health and Welfare Ministries (UMA).

“We are proud of this recognition for EAGLE,” said Mary Kemper, president and CEO of UMA. “As an accreditor of faith-based organizations for more than 40 years, EAGLE has a solid history of promoting excellence with the added focus on organizations’ faith-based mission, vision and values.”

For questions about EAGLE or other accrediting bodies and for assistance preparing your organization to become a Qualified Residential Treatment Program, please contact Accreditation Guru at Info@AccreditationGuru.com.

For more information about FFPSA, visit our FFPSA Resource Page and blog.

For full press release click here.