Virtual Surveys: What You Need to Know

The COVID-19 Public Health Emergency has altered the accreditation process so that site surveys are now virtual. There are a few things to keep in mind because of this.

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In this time of COVID-19, accreditation surveys have been the last thing on the minds of many providers. While Medicare instituted a 90-day accreditation extension, other payors or state licensure boards did not.

Because of this, ACHC implemented a process early in the Medicare grace period to conduct surveys virtually. This process has helped accommodate providers who feared the loss of contracts or payment from other payors if their accreditation expired.

Virtual surveys allow for surveys to be conducted in a safe, convenient, and effective manner while not affecting the integrity of the survey. They put concerns over Surveyor travel and in-person contact to rest, reducing risk and allowing providers to focus more on patient care and business operations.

ACHC virtual surveys are conducted by the same industry-expert Surveyors who perform on-site surveys and allow the Surveyor to observe everything that they would see on the premises of the organization. Because of this, virtual surveys cover the same scope, quality, and review of standards as on-site surveys.

Preparation in advance of the virtual survey is important because everything the Surveyor needs to see must now be shown through a computer. Review of personnel and patient files now take a little extra preparation for review on the day of survey if they are not already stored electronically.

The same is true for other documents the Surveyor must review during the survey. ACHC has conducted numerous virtual surveys and has created a process to help ensure the virtual survey goes smoothly. This process includes assessing the provider’s willingness to have their survey conducted virtually, whether they have the technology needed to participate in a virtual survey, and providing guidance on how to prepare documentation to be shown the day of survey.

Are virtual surveys here to stay? It is hard to say.

While some payors are allowing them, they may still require an on-site follow-up survey, which would make accreditation a two-step process. Also, if regulations require virtual surveys to be unannounced or provide only a short window for pre-survey notification, the provider will have to be prepared to have the survey conducted on short notice and ensure they have appropriate staff available.

It is also difficult to let go of the “personal touch” associated with an on-site survey. On the other hand, having to prepare all documents, files, etc. prior to the survey allows providers time to gather what is needed for the survey, which can help them feel more prepared and less stressed the day of survey.

For organizations with multiple locations, virtual surveys allow members from the corporate office to attend all surveys and for the survey process to be quicker because travel time is not needed.

Time will tell how well providers and regulators take to the virtual survey process.

 

About the Author

Kris Ravotti RRT, RCP is the Clinical Compliance Educator for the Accreditation Commission for Health Care (ACHC). For more information, visit www.achc.org.

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