Why Your Agency Should Seek Accreditation

February 19, 2019

As the emphasis on delivering quality care that meets specific standards grows, a growing number of home health agencies are seeking accreditation. While being an accredited agency isn’t a requirement for doing business, going through the accreditation process can help improve your agency’s operations and outcomes, while also providing patients, providers and referral sources with more peace of mind and trust in your agency.

The process of becoming accredited is an involved one, and requires a great deal of work. It’s impossible to explain the entire process and everything you need to know in a single short blog post, but if you are thinking about accreditation for your agency, here are some of the basic points you need to be aware of:

What Does Accreditation Mean?

When a home health agency is accredited, it essentially means that the agency has met the standards of the accrediting body in terms of operations, patient care, training and safety. There are three primary accrediting agencies: The Joint Commission, Community Health Accreditation Program (CHAP) and the Accreditation Commission for Health Care (AHCH). Each of these organizations has its own process and requirements for accreditation, although they overlap and share many similarities.

The oldest accrediting body in the nation is CHAP. This particular organization also has “deeming” authority from CMS, meaning that it can determine whether an agency meets Medicare’s Conditions of Participation. However, each accrediting agency works in close alignment with CMS and aligns its standards with the COPs and Medicare rules. The focus should always remain on the consumer and ensuring that the agencies are following best practices, so patients know that they will be receiving the best possible care when they work with that agency.

Why Become Accredited? 

With so many sources of information about home health agencies available to the public, including the CMS Star Ratings, agency owners and leaders may wonder why they should go to the time and expense to seek accreditation. There are several good reasons:

  • Accredited agencies are more likely to achieve a 4 or 5-Star quality rating from CMS. A comparison of the star ratings of agencies accredited by the Joint Commission and those not revealed that Joint Commission accredited agencies performed higher on 13 out of 20 measures. Non-accredited agencies only outperformed their accredited counterparts on one measure.
  • Better compliance with regulations and industry best practices.
  • Improved credibility with CMS, insurance carriers, referral sources, third-party payers and patients.
  • An advantage when it comes to marketing your agency.
  • More efficient and productive operations.
  • A better trained staff, with lower turnover and higher levels of employee engagement and loyalty.
  • Support and consulting services from the accrediting body for quality initiatives and other operational issues.

In short, earning accreditation can better position your agency for success in both the short and long term.

Achieving Accreditation

Becoming an accredited agency requires a rigorous review by the accrediting organization. While each organization takes a different approach, it’s a multi-faceted process that can take up to a year or longer to complete. Most agencies work closely with the accrediting body they select to prepare for the process; often, they are assigned a coach or consultant who can help the agency prepare for the process and identify any deficiencies or weakness, and then work toward correcting them.

While the specifics vary, if you are seeking accreditation, you can expect:

  • A rigorous review of your organizational structure, policies and procedures. This may include a review of the home health software you use.
  • A compliance review in relation to federal, state and local laws.
  • A review of your patient care processes and procedures, as well as performance.
  • A fiscal review to ensure your agency is financially sound and being run properly.
  • A patient safety review. Depending on the organization, this safety review may also include a review of your facility, and a review of your disaster management plans.
  • A review of your management.

This is only a short list; each accrediting organization has its own specific areas of review and requirements. The Joint Commission, for example, requires an onsite survey of your agency to award accreditation, and follow-up surveys every three years. The best way to go about seeking accreditation is to review the requirements of the various organizations, and reach out to get more information.

Seeking accreditation for your home health agency sends a message to your partners and clients that you take your business seriously and that you are committed to providing the best possible care and service to patients. It’s an investment in your agency’s reputation, and could ultimately lead to improved revenues. It’s not a simple process, but one that can take your business to the next level.