Hospitals have traditionally placed great significance on accreditation by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, but medical group practices want that recognition too-particularly with the growth of managed care.
That interest demands that group practices understand the accreditation process fully.
To help meet that demand, Anne Flanagan, vice president for managed-care and health systems at the Joint Commission, will present the Medical Group Management Association conference session "The Joint Commission Prepares for the Millennium Options for Medical Group Practice" Tuesday, Oct. 6, at 10: 45 a.m. and 2 p.m.
According to Flanagan, the Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.-based Joint Commission uses ambulatory-care standards to survey group practices and focuses on patient-care issues, placing "performance over paper."
"On an on-site survey, the surveyors are looking for real-life performance as an indicator of quality before they look at a document," Flanagan says. "If you have documents about how things should happen in an office, that's fine. But actual activities and the extent to which those in the office understand key critical issues are more important."
Group practices can be accredited on their own or as part of a hospital system or part of a healthcare network. Flanagan recommends that group practices pursue solo accreditation.
"The medical group practice has its own certificate on the wall to indicate that particular organization was accredited," she says. "Accreditation is directly attributable to the practice. In that case, competitive advantage is best. The physician practice can actually market to managed-care organizations that it has achieved this accomplishment and (therefore) become more attractive."
Accreditation benefits include the certificate, which proves the group's commitment to quality, greater access to managed-care contracts, relief from multiple inspections, improved ability to meet state regulatory requirements, the possibility of reduced malpractice premiums and the opportunity to improve internal performances, Flanagan says.
Once accredited, an organization is free from inspection for three years.
But internal improvement may be the greatest benefit, according to Flanagan. "The act of getting ready to be surveyed improves teamwork, organizational efforts, leadership and the mechanism of how care is delivered."
The Joint Commission plans to disseminate all accrediting decisions, surveys and performance results through vehicles such as the Internet. The agency also will list demonstrated outcomes and results of care, such as surgical interventions, that are comparable between organizations.
"People will be able to go on the Internet to see whether an organization is accredited, how they did on the survey and how those results stack up against others," Flanagan says.