In a news release, AAAHC President and CEO John Burke noted that the “movement to accountable care organizations and other recent trends has led to more health systems reabsorbing primary-care physicians and free-standing ambulatory-care settings back into the hospital.”
Egnatinsky added that individual facilities are also expanding, which is changing the definition of what they are. “Over the past several years, many ‘ambulatory surgery centers' have become ‘surgical hospitals,' but they have asked us if we would continue being their accreditation organization,” Egnatinsky said.
The ambulatory surgery center industry “is relatively flat now,” he added. “They are either merging with other ASCs or being bought out or being join-ventured with hospitals.”
Egnatinsky said the reorganization plan was in the works for two years before it was approved by the AAAHC board in April, and he explained that part of that time was spent conducting market research that uncovered how “a number of small rural hospitals are not accredited or couldn't afford the cost of the major accrediting organizations” such as the Joint Commission.
“We expect to initially focus on small rural and critical-access hospitals,” Egnatinsky said. “We felt this was a good fit for us.”
He said six small hospitals have approached them to participate in the pilot, which he said should get started within the next three months and last for three to six months. “We look at this as a very exciting venture that there is a need for,” Egnatinsky said.
The AAAHC, formed in 1979, marked its 5,000th accreditation this past November, and most of its accrediting has been done within the ambulatory surgery space. But it also accredits all of the “non-bedded” healthcare facilities for the U.S. Air Force and accrediting clinics for the Coast Guard and Indian Health Service.
“We're really expanding our accrediting programs to include primary care,” Egnatinsky said, and this includes accrediting ACOs, managed-care organizations and patient-centered medical homes.