The number of Assisted Living Communities have been growing in the United States with approximately 28,000 facilities serving 800,000 residents nationwide. The varying nature of operating these Assisted Living Communities presents different challenges for each facility. Facilities differ across the country on building infrastructure, staffing, policies, and procedures. How an assisted living facility is rated on patient safety and performance improvements can now be assessed by an external, non-biased organization called The Joint Commission. This organization now standardizes how patient care is graded in Assisted Living facilities and provides recommendations and resources for any performance improvements needed. The survey information can be made available to both healthcare consumers and regulatory agencies to show that a standard of care is being achieved for a specific facility.
What is The Joint Commission?
The Joint Commission is an independent, non-profit organization created in 1951 with a stated mission to “continuously improve health care for the public, in collaboration with other stakeholders, by evaluating health care organizations and inspiring them to excel in providing safe and effective care of the highest quality and value”. It is the largest accreditation commission in the United States, currently accrediting more than 20,000 health care programs and organizations. Certification provided by The Joint Commission utilizes a reporting format that is easily translated to healthcare consumers inquiring about a facility’s standard of care. The Joint Commission’s main goal is to evaluate quality healthcare for patients, prevent harm, and improve patient advocacy, with their main focus on patient safety.
How are surveys performed in Assisted Living Communities?
The Joint Commission accreditation standards for Assisted Living Communities concentrate on areas critical to quality, safety and resident experience including the environment, work staff, emergency management, delivery of care and services, process improvement, and more. Surveys are performed by professionals with prior experience in long term care that are able to comprehend the issues Assisted Living Communities face on a daily basis and provide practical solutions to problems. Surveyors track performance measures by comparing metrics associated with medications dispensed, hospital visits, advanced care plans and staff stability.
An onsite survey typically lasts one week and consists of the following:
- Tracing the patient’s experience by monitoring services provided by various caregivers and programs within the organization.
- On-site observations and interviews.
- Assessment of the facility building components
- Review of documents provided by the organization.
Onsite surveys measure compliance under real time care and under everyday business conditions. It is the goal of the commission to utilize surveyors who can share best practices and provide hands-on learning opportunities during the survey to provide a facility with objective assessment and practical strategies for ongoing performance improvement.
How to Apply?
All Assisted Living Communities located within the United States, or operated by the U.S. government, are eligible to apply for accreditation. Facilities must ensure they meet the following requirements:
- The facility provides housing, meals, and a combination of supervision and personal care services that promote the resident’s quality of life and maximizes independence.
- Services offered include nursing care, dementia care, medication management, rehabilitation, and palliative care.
- The facility fulfills all licensure, registration or certification requirements as required by their state.
- The facility has served a minimum of 3-5 patients prior to an initial survey in order to meet the minimum number of residents required
What are the benefits?
There are numerous benefits for an organization receiving accreditation by The Joint Commission. Most importantly, operational evaluations of Assisted Living Communities aids in identifying strengths while also isolating risks and deficiencies before they lead to liability issues. Also from a marketing perspective, being accredited by the nation’s leading performance improvement organization, distinguishes your facility. This level of accreditation makes it more of an attractive choice for both future residents and prospective staff.
Other benefits of being accredited by The Joint Commission:
- Certain states accept accreditation for some or all annual licensing requirements (AZ, MI, MO, NE, UT, DC).
- Discounts on liability insurance from certain providers.
- Collaboration with states and third-party payors to recognize Joint Commission accreditation/certification for value-based performance initiatives.
- Residents and their caregivers view accreditation as a valuable attribute and are more willing to visit/tour a facility that is accredited.
- Facilities have access to experts in our Standards Interpretation Group (SIG) who assist in applying the standards to achieve enhanced performance.
- The Joint Commission offers various programs and resources vetted by industry experts to help you prepare or stay ready for accreditation.
If a facility is interested in applying, first review the requirements by requesting a free 90-day access to The Joint Commission online standards manual to review self-assessment prompts and the written document checklists. Once a facility has determined they are compliant with the standards, they can apply for accreditation and start preparing for their onsite survey. Through the Assisted Living Community Accreditation Program, The Joint Commission hopes to promote consistent quality care across a fluctuating industry by enabling providers with the tools necessary to offer a safe environment for both residents and staff members.
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