*** NATSAP has asked several accreditation consultants to write a guest blog post discussing accreditation and what it means for a program to pursue accreditation. NATSAP does not promote or refer anyone consultant or business over another. ***
Demystifying National Accreditation
For many behavioral healthcare organization leaders, the thought of pursuing a national accreditation can be intimidating, frightening and may even feel frustrating. If you are among those considering accreditation you may be asking yourself:
- How will this impact the way I do business?
- What resources will I have to allocate to this project?
- How will my staff handle the changes?
- What happens if we aren’t successful in our survey?
This document seeks to demystify the process of national accreditation, highlight why it will benefit your business, and, hopefully alleviate some of your concerns.
Pursuing and earning accreditation will change the way you do business…for the better!
When considering or feeling the pressure to become nationally accredited you may be thinking, “Oh great, another regulatory body dictating how we operate our business.” Although The Joint Commission (TJC), The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), The Council on Accreditation (COA), The Association for Experiential Education (AEE) will hold your organization accountable to specific standards of compliance, they fill a different role than a governmental regulatory body. Each accreditor’s foundational purpose is to help you improve in all areas of your organization. Accreditation standards have been created by highly educated and experienced experts in order to improve our industry’s ability to treat the population we serve. Simply put, accrediting bodies want to be your partner.
You will have to make some changes to become accredited. However, the rules and guidelines provide an additional framework for best practices in the areas of clinical program effectiveness, facility safety and security, human resources, information management and much more. In other words, these changes will make your organization better suited to do business and help people.
The cost of obtaining and maintaining accreditation is an investment
One common misconception about the accreditation process is that in order to meet certain standards, you will be forced to spend more than you can afford. It is true that you will incur expenses for accreditation fees and possibly environment of care improvements, but accrediting bodies don’t want to put you out of business. There is plenty of room to work with your accrediting body’s account representative and their engineers to creatively avoid incurring unreasonable expenses.
When you choose to pursue national accreditation, you are investing in your business and the additional opportunities that will present themselves: opportunities to improve systems, opportunities for additional referrals, and opportunities for an increase in revenue.
- From an operations perspective, accreditation standards will help you better understand the specific ways you can be more effective in your approach.
- Using validated tools to track progress and outcomes will undoubtably lead to higher rates of retention and better outcomes.
- When you are accredited, more people are willing to recommend your program. Some educational consultants and referral sources will only refer to accredited organizations. Now more than ever, commercial insurance payors will not authorize out-of-network reimbursement for non-accredited programs. Bottom line, more referrals, higher retention rates, and additional insurance authorizations lead to an increase in revenue.
High quality staff appreciate higher standards of care
During my tenure as the Director of Operations at NorthStar Transitions, our Founder and President told me we would be pursuing Joint Commission Accreditation. I thought to myself, “oh great, more work on my already full plate and less time I will have to spend doing more important tasks”. Once we began to implement the standards, my mindset completely shifted. As a passionate leader I’ve always sought out ways to improve how my team and I work, and The Joint Commission exponentially increased the trajectory of our performance improvement. Personnel we employed who took ownership of their new responsibilities demonstrated previously unseen ability and contributed greater overall value.
Many of the standards shed light on areas I had never considered.
- Our emergency response preparedness tightened up.
- Our Human Resources process developed.
- Our understanding of the facilities became clearer.
- Our clinical documentation improved significantly (which by the way, from a utilization review perspective lead to an increase of authorized days insurance companies agreed to reimburse).
National accrediting bodies want you to be successful
If you operate a treatment facility, wilderness or academic program you are likely regulated in one or more capacities – whether by a state department, academic accreditor, or an association-specific accrediting body. National accrediting bodies are not the same in their approach. Surveyors will verify that you are meeting standards, but they also serve as objective consultants who provide suggestions and resources to help you improve. Of the hundreds of surveys PJS Connection Consulting has participated in, every single one has provided new insight and perspective on best practice. If you have made a dedicated effort to meet accreditation standards, you will earn your accreditation.
If you are interested in learning more about the process of national accreditation, learn more about PJS Connection Consulting.
Parker J. Smith, CAC II
PJS Connection Consulting
Founder and CEO