Eye on Accreditation

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Phone: (866) 909-4722
Web site: www.hqaa.org
Approved for: All DME and custom orthotics; accreditation support for new suppliers, pharmacy accreditation and physician practice accreditation

 How does your organization differ from other deemed accrediting organizations?
There are two major differences. First, our program is specifically — and only — for durable medical equipment providers. The standards were written by experts who have worked in the industry and are familiar with the equipment, the processes and the challenges that these organizations face in the marketplace. There are no extraneous standards that don’t apply to a company; they only get standards that relate to whatever services and equipment lines they provide.

Second, our program allows organizations to work online and submit preliminary data to us via the Web. This data submission includes the application process and also the first phase of accreditation: completing workrooms. The workroom process allows organizations to review our standards one by one and assess their own operations. We like to describe this part of the process as an “open book test.” Preparation for the survey is accomplished by the organizations at their own pace and on their own schedules. We’ve had companies submit data to us at 2 or 3 a.m. and on weekends. The most user-friendly part of this process is the assignment of an accreditation coach that stays with each organization through this part of the process.

How long does it typically take for a respiratory provider to become accredited with your organization?
The beauty of our process is that they work at their own pace. We’ve had companies that sign up, submit information into their workrooms, are scheduled and visited within four months; and others that have taken over a year. The organization is in the driver’s seat and controls this part of the process. An average from application/sign up to accreditation is around six months.

What common pitfalls do respiratory providers face with the accreditation process?
Some of the most common issues of non-compliance include incomplete orders for oxygen and CPAP. Often, the order will not include the liter flow (for oxygen) or the pressure level (for CPAP). Another common problem is equipment maintenance that isn’t documented. Believe it or not, simple hand washing by staff is often not done during home visits and patient care. Finally, documentation seems to be something many companies struggle with and have to work hard to improve. Care is provided, assessments are performed, preventive maintenance and cleaning are done, but companies don’t always do a good job of documenting all of the great work they do.

What factors should respiratory providers consider when looking for an accrediting organization?
Find the accrediting organization (AO) that fits with your organization. Picking the right AO is an important decision; yet, many organizations rely on single factors (like cost) or what they’ve heard from their peers without actually doing comparison shopping. If I were a provider looking for the right AO, I’d contact each one that I was considering and interview someone on staff. Ask them about cost, timeframe, their surveyor’s backgrounds and experiences. Ask them how long the survey lasts. See how responsive the AO is to your call and that may give you an indication as to how responsive they’ll be once you sign up.

What advice would you give respiratory providers seeking accreditation?
First and foremost, GET AFTER IT! Accreditation is mandatory for organizations providing care to Medicare patients by September 2009. Insurance companies, HMOs and referral sources seem to be following CMS’ trend and requiring accreditation.

Don’t assign accreditation to one person in your organization and expect them to do it all. While it is a good idea to have one person coordinate accreditation preparation efforts, accreditation requires the active participation of all staff — particularly staff that cares for patients. Get everyone involved and engaged.

Make sure all staff is aware that the process should make your company stronger, your workflow more efficient and improve the quality of the care and services you provide. Realize that accreditation has real value to a company that goes beyond complying with a government or payor mandate. n

This article originally appeared in the Respiratory Management November 2008 issue of HME Business.

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