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
- 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
- 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.