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By José Domingos
Healthcare accreditation is vital for ensuring high levels of quality, and this achievement should be leveraged in every way possible to help strengthen and grow business. Today, patients are more educated than ever before. They want to know that a provider offers effective, safe and quality care, and accreditation can be an influential tool to assure them.
How Accreditation Affects Patient Decisions and Healthcare Outcomes
By 2022, avoidable adverse patient safety events across the U.S. and Western Europe, including healthcare-associated infections, sepsis and diagnostic errors, are projected to cost an estimated $383.7 billion, according to a Frost & Sullivan analysis.
Accreditation supports a culture of continuous quality improvement that strongly and directly influences patient care. With accreditation, you are indicating to staff, competitors, community members and every patient that visits your facility that you are committed to meeting standards that demonstrate a higher level of performance and quality of care.
Research has provided substantial evidence in support of accreditation across the continuum of care. An interesting synthesis of more than 25 individual studies titled “Impact of Accreditation on the Quality of Healthcare Services” showed consistent evidence that accreditation programs improve the process of care provided by healthcare providers and that accreditation programs improve clinical outcomes across a wide spectrum of conditions. The report also highlighted how accreditation programs for subspecialties also improve clinical outcomes.
In a large analysis of data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), patients treated at accredited hospitals were more likely to receive higher quality of care for the management of acute myocardial infarction (AMI) than those treated at nonaccredited hospitals. In this study, the mortality rate was lower post-AMI in accredited hospitals than in nonaccredited hospitals.
Another large cross-sectional survey of outpatient substance abuse treatment programs conducted in the U.S. showed that accreditation was positively associated with two elements of treatment comprehensiveness: the percentages of clients receiving physical examinations and mental health care.
Further supporting evidence makes clear that accreditation greatly benefits patients, whether they undergo procedures in hospitals or nonhospital environments. In an analysis of data from ambulatory surgery centers in the U.S., there was a significant reduction in unexpected hospitalizations of patients undergoing colonoscopy in accredited ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) compared with nonaccredited ASCs. In this study, there also was a reduction in unexpected hospitalizations of patients undergoing cataract surgery in accredited ASCs compared with nonaccredited ASCs.
According to an International Journal for Quality in Health Care report titled “The Unrecognized Power of Health Services Accreditation: More Than External Evaluation,” the documented benefits of accreditation are many and include enabling the establishment of organizational structures and processes, promotion of quality and safety cultures and improvements in patient care.
All these findings underscore how accreditation can positively impact patient outcomes. We can presume patients want to receive excellent care that is safe, effective and consistent with the latest clinical evidence. As such, accreditation is a trustworthy symbol of your organization’s dedication to providing the highest quality of care.
Why Providers Should Market Accreditation to Patients
Staff of hospitals and outpatient providers, such as home-based care agencies, pharmacies, DMEPOS providers, behavioral health, ASCs and more, expend significant time and effort to complete the accreditation process and are proud to achieve accreditation. Whether your organization has earned accreditation for several consecutive terms or has just earned its first accreditation, tout the results of this hard work so the community is aware. Taking the extra steps to communicate these accomplishments to patients, referring physicians and third-party payers enhances the overall value of accreditation and your commitment to excellence.
When it comes to promoting patient safety to the community, Kettering Health Network – a nonprofit healthcare system serving southwest Ohio and accredited by HFAP, a brand of ACHC – serves as a model of success. The organization’s long-term quality improvement efforts illustrate how high levels of patient care and safety are achieved through a collaborative approach of regularly monitoring processes and implementing customized, corrective actions when inefficiencies are identified.
As a testament to Kettering Health Network’s performance, all of its eligible hospitals have earned A’s from The Leapfrog Group in its rating of how well healthcare facilities protect patients from preventable medical errors, injuries and infections. Only a very select group of hospitals earn an “A” Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade across their entire network, and such success shows a sustained dedication to protecting patients from preventable errors. It also illustrates the benefit accreditation provides by ensuring consistent practices across distinct facilities that make up the system.
In addition, Kettering’s hospital network was named to the 15 Top Health Systems list by IBM Watson Health for 2020, which recognizes health systems for achieving better risk-adjusted outcomes and higher patient satisfaction while keeping average per-patient costs down. This achievement through accreditation was widely communicated by Kettering to further elevate its standing in the community and showcase its outstanding commitment to patient safety and outcomes.
Kettering is just one example of how accreditation can help to differentiate your healthcare organization from other providers in the field.
Special Distinctions Can Further Impact Business Strategy and Growth
Separately earned distinctions often speak directly to a patient’s specific needs, and they play a significant role in a healthcare facility’s growth strategy. For hospitals and surgery centers that undergo additional evaluation of practices related to stroke care, orthopedic procedures and other specialties, it’s advantageous to market the expertise recognized by certification.
For example, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, joint replacement will become the most common elective surgical procedure in the next few decades. In 2010, an estimated 7 million Americans had a total hip or knee replacement; by 2030, that number is expected to reach 11 million.
As more patients seek these surgeries, it is vital for healthcare organizations to articulate their efforts to enhance patient safety through certification. This proven mark of excellence empowers organizations to strengthen community partnerships and patient confidence with ongoing quality improvement and strong patient results.
Veterans of accreditation and newly accredited organizations alike can benefit from more strongly leveraging their quality improvement efforts. Healthcare organizations that do not stress the benefits of accreditation and their commitment to excellence to their patient populations are missing an opportunity to drive increased patient census and, more importantly, increased patient satisfaction.
About the author: José Domingos is President & CEO of the Accreditation Commission for Health Care (ACHC), a nonprofit healthcare accrediting organization with over 30 years of experience promoting safe, quality patient care. ACHC develops solutions trusted by healthcare providers nationwide and is committed to offering exceptional, personalized service and a customized, collaborative accreditation experience tailored to individual needs.To reach José, email [email protected] or call 855.937.2242. For more information about ACHC, visit www.achc.org.