The Advantages of Accreditation: Demonstrating Quality of Care in the Face of Rising Lawsuits

Senior living facilities, and nursing homes in particular, received a great deal of negative media attention throughout the pandemic.  There is now a surge of negligence and wrongful death lawsuits from families of residents, with New York and Illinois leading the way.  More than ever, long-term care providers must demonstrate their ability to deliver high quality care.

Families often turn to Care Compare, the Five-Star Quality Rating System for nursing homes provided by Medicare to evaluate facilities.  In addition, there are private entities that assess long-term care quality, including, but not limited to: CARF International which provides Aging Services accreditation, the AHCA/NCAL National Quality Award Program which is a three-level process that evaluates an organization’s capabilities against nationally recognized standards in quality.  The Joint Commission also provides accreditation for hospitals, nursing care centers, assisted living facilities as well as several other types of healthcare providers.  A study revealed that nursing homes that are accredited by The Joint Commission “demonstrate a consistent pattern of superior performance,” which included fewer deficiencies, payment denials, and fines.

The Joint Commission recently published a white paper detailing why accreditation is clinically and financially vital to skilled nursing facilities, particularly post COVID-19.  Regarding demonstrating clinical quality, The Joint Commission cites the following:

  • Standards: Joint Commission standards are considered the industry benchmark for quality and safety, addressing clinical and non-clinical essential to operations.  These standards help organizations reduce variation, reduce risk, and improve quality.
  • Survey Process: their on-site survey process goes “deeper” into an organization’s facilities and workflow than state health inspectors.
  • SAFER® Reporting: The Joint Commission’s Survey Analysis for Evaluating Risk® report is a business intelligence tool that facilitates a review of survey findings.  The information allows providers to utilize the information for quality initiatives, allocation of resources, peer review, and other planning.

The Joint Commission mentions the following regarding the impact of accreditation on profitability:

  • Payor Recognition: many payors, including Medicare, use Joint Commission accreditation as a key metric in determining reimbursement.
  • Referrals and reputation are improved through accreditation. Acute care facilities, as well as patients and families, recognize organizations who have gone beyond government regulations in standards of care.  The reputation accreditation carries also helps in recruiting and retaining staff.
  • Standardization: through standardization of processes, SNFs:
    • Decrease patient and staff harm
    • Reduce risk of error
    • Improve staff productivity
    • Control costs
  • Boosts profitability
    • Lowers fines/regulatory preparation
    • Efficient, effective processes

Accreditation by a private organization, such as The Joint Commission, through the improvement in clinical and financial outcomes, should correspondingly have a positive impact on the resolution, and ultimate avoidance, of lawsuits.  Assessing an organization’s readiness to apply for accreditation can be daunting.  Excelas’ Comprehensive Integrated Timeline Tool allows clients to incorporate key facility data with accreditation guidelines, highlighting areas of compliance as well as those that need attention.  Excelas can perform this and other reviews to support your facility’s administration in preparing for the accreditation survey process.

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