New England Recovery and Wellness has earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval®.

Yesterday, we announced on Facebook our excitement to receive The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval®. It occurs to us, however, that not everyone necessarily understands the importance of this achievement, and why receiving Joint Commission accreditation as such young facility is so meaningful to us.

Simply put, receiving Joint Commission accreditation demonstrates compliance with a certain set of procedural standards. The Joint Commission, previously known as JCAHO, is a not-for-profit organization that works to promote safe and effective health care. They accredit more than twenty thousand programs and organizations worldwide, subjecting each to a thorough survey in order to ensure procedural compliance.

The Joint Commission arrives at these standards following in-depth consultation with numerous medical professionals. These professionals make recommendations based on years of experience, enabling the Joint Commission to regularly make improvements to their accreditation requirements as deemed necessary. Surveyors then evaluate programs seeking accreditation and assess their adherence to the quality standards set forth by the Joint Commission.

No mandatory requirements for addiction treatment specify an obligation to receive Joint Commission accreditation. Programs such as RAW undergo this evaluation voluntarily. It does not satisfy a legal obligation, but rather demonstrates an extra measure taken on our part to review the safety and quality of our programs.

Many standards fill the manual that treatment centers must follow to qualify for accreditation. Listing all of them would make for a very weighty discussion. In our case, Joint Commission accreditation was determined primarily by our client safety measures. As such, allow us to provide an overview of the evaluation performed regarding this aspect of our care and the importance of the results.

Client Safety Standards

Medication reconciliation comprises a vital component of improving client safety standards. (Irenaphoto/Shutterstock)

During our accreditation survey on August 11, RAW was evaluated for compliance with The Joint Commission’s 2017 National Patient Safety Goals. As evidenced by our Quality Report, we qualified for Joint Commission accreditation in this area by fulfilling four primary requirements.

First, we demonstrated our goal to improving accuracy of identification by using multiple identifiers. You may not think of identity fraud as an issue that would frequently affect treatment centers. And even when it does, it might not be immediately apparent that this could constitute a potential safety issue. However, IT security company Imprivata reports that many of the 2.3 million Americans who fell victim to medical identity fraud in 2014 now have incorrect medical records. Furthermore, of the 7-10% of individuals misidentified when searching health records, 6% are put at safety risk as a result. If a client’s medical history factors into their treatment plan, we must ensure we can access these records without incident.

The Joint Commission also expects treatment centers to improve the safety of using medications by reconciling medication information. This does not require much explanation. We keep detailed records of all clients’ prescriptions from the time of admission to time of discharge. This helps us to avoid providing the wrong dosage, or prescribing medications that do not safely interact with medications already taken. The Joint Commission outlines a specific procedure for medication reconciliation, as follows:

“This process comprises five steps: (1) develop a list of current medications; (2) develop a list of medications to be prescribed; (3) compare the medications on the two lists; (4) make clinical decisions based on the comparison; and (5) communicate the new list to appropriate caregivers and to the patient.”

Third, Joint Commission accreditation requires us to reduce the risk of infections by observing guidelines for hand hygiene. This may sound simplistic, but hand hygiene is no small matter. That’s why the Center for Disease Control offers a 45-page guidebook on the subject, while the World Health Organization’s guidelines fill up about 257 pages. Naturally, not all information contained within these documents applies to addiction treatment centers. The Joint Commission identifies specific guidelines relevant to the organizations and programs they survey, then evaluates their dedication to observing them.

Finally, those seeking Joint Commission accreditation must identify inherent safety risks relevant to their practice. As you’ll see in the report, they specifically evaluated our efforts to identify patients at risk of suicide. Addiction and suicide share a strong link, and many in recovery have attempted before. Around 30-40% of those who successfully complete suicide have tried it previously, and they are 100 times more likely to follow through within the first year after their most recent attempt. If treatment centers do not monitor clients for signs of potential self-harm, loss of life becomes a very real danger. We must take a proactive approach to keeping our clients out of harm’s way.

Ongoing Improvement

The continuous pursuit of improvement is one of the essential building blocks of our program. We are always seeking out new ways to enhance our methods of client care. (Gajus/Shutterstock)

Upon receiving Joint Commission accreditation, treatment centers do not necessarily keep it forever. Per a brochure offered as part of their publicity kit, The Joint Commission states their mission thusly:

“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.”

We may put emphasis on the word “continuously,” as it implies a very important point. Accreditation for behavioral health care centers lasts only in cycles of three years. Treatment centers who do not work to maintain The Joint Commission’s standards risk eventually forfeiting the right to display that golden seal. The Joint Commission evaluates its safety goals every year, and treatment centers should feel duty-bound to do the same. Behavioral health care is not a stagnant field. We operate on an ever-changing landscape, and must keep up with developments in treatment if we wish to provide the level of service our clients deserve.

Joint Commission accreditation does not promise perfection. In fact, their organization adamantly prohibits treatment centers from citing their approval as “proof” of anything. Given the very personal nature of addiction recovery, no treatment center truly could. What constitutes quality of care for one client may prove unbeneficial to the next. The best any treatment center can truly promise is to emphasize personalized care for every client, and to continue working as hard as possible to seek improvement as we strive to keep up with new developments in addiction treatment.

This dedication to work tirelessly in pursuit of quality treatment is not new to us. In that sense, Joint Commission accreditation changes very little about our programs. It serves only to reassure our clients that they reside in the hands of caring professionals. And far from resting on our laurels, we can promise that we will continue working to ensure that this accreditation feels truly earned. It is the least we can do for the wonderful clients who continue to put their trust in us.

For more information on our programs, contact us today. It is always a pleasure to hear from you.

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