What Behavioral Health Accreditation Can Do For Your Organization

As behavioral health professionals, it is your goal to provide care of the highest quality. Compassion, and the quest for continual improvement, drive your organization towards greater efficacy - and of course, promote optimal outcomes for your clients. How can behavioral health accreditation help you deliver effective consumer-driven services and programming?

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A Quick Review of Behavioral Health Accreditation

There are a number of accrediting bodies in the health and human services arena, including the Council on Accreditation (COA), the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), and the Joint Commission. Each is an independent, nonprofit organization geared toward quality assurance. Recognized around the world, accreditations from these bodies help inform clients and other stakeholders that your organization has met strict standards. What standards, you ask? Well, each accrediting body has its own set with its own purpose or mission. For example, the Joint Commission standards focus on promoting “safe and effective care of the highest quality and value,” while the COA standards strive to “improve service delivery outcomes.” As it is with any set of standards, the ultimate goal is to achieve a certain level of quality - and, in the behavioral health realm, that quality can have a significant impact on the client experience.

Advantages of Accreditation

Behavioral health accreditation is designed, first and foremost, to protect clients. There are also significant benefits to organizations, including:

1. Quality of care

Let’s take the Joint Commission standards for example. The standards focus on operational systems that are integral to quality of care, safety, and delivery of treatments and services. During the accreditation process, licensed behavioral health professionals will evaluate these aspects of your practice. In addition, accrediting bodies like the Joint Commission, CARF, and COA provide education, advice, and counsel for your organization, which you can leverage to improve operations further. Accreditation is also a signal to clients, referrers, insurance companies, and others involved in behavioral healthcare that your organization offers safe, high-quality services and/or programs. It’s external validation of your good work.

2. Risk management

The accreditation process is undertaken by experienced and licensed behavioral health professionals. One of their key roles - and one which benefits you immensely - is providing performance improvement strategies. These can help you eliminate processes or practices that contribute to low quality care, reduce the risk of error, and optimize your responses to complex and emergency situations. We cannot forget financial risk. Accreditation can position your organization more favorably in terms of insurance, helping you access more advantageous liability policies and/or reduce your rates - sometimes significantly.

3. Competitive advantages

As mentioned, accreditation is a statement from an independent body that your organization delivers safe, effective care. It is an assertion of quality, and it informs the community - including potential clients, healthcare professionals, etc. - of your efforts. This gives you an edge. You can secure new business via referrals and direct requests. Behavioral health accreditation also lets potential employees know that your workplace adheres to the highest standards and has in place sound procedures and processes. This is attractive to the industry’s top talent, many of whom are also enticed by opportunities for ongoing training provided by the different accrediting bodies.

4. Funding sources

This is a critical concern for behavioral health professionals, because it directly impacts their ability to deliver care. Accreditation is often used as a key indicator of quality and can help you secure funding. Many sources require accreditation to bid on contracts, participate in managed-care plans, and receive reimbursement. With accreditation, you may also be able to qualify for Medicaid and Medicare certification without a separate government quality inspection. This can relieve untold stress and free up invaluable time and resources.

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5. Internal review
Once you submit an application for accreditation, it can be valid for up to 12 months. Many organizations use a substantial portion of this time (six to nine months) to prepare. This enables you to engage in extensive reviews of (and reflections on) your processes, including those related to data gathering and usage for continuous improvement. Review the standards of the accrediting body and objectively evaluate the areas in which you need to strengthen practices - before your first scheduled survey. The first visit is planned and scheduled based on your readiness: there is no surprise drop-in at this point. When organizations take advantage of this preparation period, they can be more proactive in terms of improvement. This benefits the organization - and, ultimately, the client.

6. Compliance

Your state may require accreditation by certain bodies. If you are accredited and compliant with the Joint Commission standards, for example, you may not need to go through additional inspections or surveys to meet your state’s compliance standards.

7. Consistent - scalable - frameworks for care

Throughout the process, you will work to standardize procedures and policies. This is essential in creating consistency across services and programs. It is also critical in ensuring there is alignment if you have different locations. This infrastructure, if you will, can help you scale up as your organization grows. Therefore, behavioral health accreditation can be an important - and beneficial - step for your organization. And, remember, you have resources that can help. Better Outcomes Now is one such resource, as it helps you meet measurement-based accreditation standards while demonstrating effectiveness to funders. Most importantly, Better Outcomes Now improves client outcomes. But don’t just take our word for it: start your free trial of this PCOMS-based, outcome measurement software today.

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