This article is sponsored by The Joint Commission. In this Voices interview, Senior Housing News sits down with Beverly Belton, MSN, RN, Field Director for The Joint Commission, to learn about the value of Joint Commission accreditation for assisted living facilities. Belton also shares best practices for the Joint Commission survey process and how to prepare, as well as what senior living operators can expect along the way.
Senior Housing News: Beverly, what career experiences do you most draw from in your role today?
Beverly Belton: I have had a very long career as a nurse. During that time, I’ve had the opportunity to work in just about every portion of the health care continuum, including the United States Army Nurse Corps. Across all of those areas, I am constantly drawn back to the importance of the experience of the individual interacting with the health care system and also the impact of that experience on their desired health outcomes.
Who is eligible to receive assisted living accreditation and what is the business case for pursuing that accreditation?
Belton: With each state, what falls under the category of assisted living is highly variable. The first thing we did was establish a definition for what we would be including under assisted living. At a minimum, the assisted living community must provide housing, meals, and a combination of supervision and personal care services. Some of the other services that they may provide include, but are not limited to: nursing care, dementia care, medication management, or palliative care.
The care can be provided in a variety of settings. It could be a freestanding assisted living community. It could be integrated with a skilled nursing facility, hospital, or a component of a continuing care retirement community. In addition, the facility must be located in the United States or its territories, or if it’s outside of the U.S., it has to be operated by the U.S. government or under a charter of the U.S. Congress. It also must satisfy licensure registration or certification requirements of the state it’s located in.
Depending upon the facility size, there are some minimum requirements for the number of residents. If the occupancy is 19 or more, the facility must have served a minimum of five residents and have two active residents at the time of their initial survey. If it’s a smaller assisted living facility, and by that we mean with a maximum occupancy of 18 or less, then they must have served three residents and have at least two present at the time of the survey.
As far as the business case, assisted living accreditation through The Joint Commission provides a visible demonstration to your residents, their families, and your community, of your commitment to providing the highest quality and safest services. It also helps you to improve your overall performance improvement efforts, and it helps you to deliver or coordinate senior care and services as well. In some cases, it may also help assisted living providers with recognition from regulatory bodies and other key stakeholders. For example, today, there are several states that accept Joint Commission accreditation for licensure requirements.
For assisted living communities, what does an accreditation survey consist of?
Belton: Assisted living accreditation surveys are usually two days long, but the length really depends on your capacity and facility size. These surveys are performed by nurses with master’s degrees and extensive experience in the senior care portion of the health care continuum so they understand the day-to-day activities and challenges in assisted living communities. Experts in Joint Commission standards, the surveyors are employed by The Joint Commission, they’re not contractors. They receive continuous training and education from The Joint Commission to provide consistent current and relevant insights.
The assisted living survey is a collaborative, collegial process facilitated by experts that are intent on inspiring you and your employees to meet the highest standards of care and quality. Initially, the surveyor will begin by meeting with you and your leadership team to get an orientation to your facility, as well as orienting you to the specifics of the survey process. The survey itself entails the use of ‘tracers,’ which simply put, is a way to follow a process of care and services received by an individual from the beginning through to the end. They will do this through having conversations with you, actually going out and observing activities in different parts of your facility, talking to your residents, talking to your employees, and reviewing documents. Most importantly, they’re partners with you in providing safe quality services to your residents. Providing an in-depth real-time analysis of your organization’s compliance with Joint Commission standards, the surveyors will identify your strengths as well as your challenges. You’ll receive a written report at the end of the survey that details the areas in which improvements are needed to meet the standards of The Joint Commission. Throughout the survey process surveyors share practical evidence-based strategies and best practices that have been gleaned through our extensive experience as an accreditor of organizations across the health care continuum.
Where do organizations struggle most in their accreditation process?
Belton: Getting started. Organizations, especially those who are going through our process for the first time, get overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. They’re not used to thinking about quality and safety the way that The Joint Commission has organized it.
What can organizations do to avoid common pitfalls during the process?
Belton: Take the time to get to know the standards and don’t try to read the whole manual in a single setting.
Start by bringing in other members of your team that might be interested in the process and divide up the chapters. Be sure to utilize the resources that we make available to you online via our public website and the private extranet site that you gain access to when you decide to move forward with your accreditation journey.
Most importantly, reach out to your contacts at The Joint Commission such as your business development contacts, your dedicated account executive, and the Field Director.
The bottom line is to remember you’re not going through the survey process alone. Use the resources that we make available to you and reach out to the individuals that we have dedicated to support you through this process.
What other tips and best practices can you share to agency operators who are preparing for the survey process?
Belton: It really helps to have leaders set the tone for the staff and your residents and to engage them in survey preparation activities. Many organizations will do things like post reminders about standards in areas where your employees frequent, or do fun activities and projects to reinforce the importance of meeting these standards to support quality and safety efforts.
They’ll also identify staff members as ‘quality champions’ to help the organization be successful during their survey. These. individuals become mini experts and are really energized, positive and committed to help their colleagues during the survey process. It does a great deal to support development of highly motivated members of your staff while at the same time making quality and safety a part of your routine activities, not something that you only do when The Joint Commission is coming.
Finish this sentence: The top strategy that senior living operators should employ in 2022 to best prepare for 2023 is…
Belton: … to implement strategies to distinguish the quality, safety, and level of services that you provide to your residents.
This article is sponsored by The Joint Commission. To learn more about why Joint Commission accreditation is right for your organization, visit www.jointcommission.org/alc.
The Voices Series is a sponsored content program featuring leading executives discussing trends, topics and more shaping their industry in a question-and-answer format. For more information on Voices, please contact email@example.com.
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