What is the Accreditation Association
for Ambulatory Health Care?
The AAAHC is a private, not-for-profit organization that was formed in 1979 to assist ambulatory health care organizations in improving the quality of care they provide to their patients. It accomplishes this by setting standards, measuring performance, providing consultation and education where needed, and ultimately by awarding accreditation to those organizations that are found to be in compliance with its standards.
What is accreditation?
Accreditation is a voluntary process through which an ambulatory health care organization is able to measure the quality of its services and performance against nationally recognized standards. The accreditation process involves self-assessment by the organization as well as a thorough review by AAAHC’s expert surveyors who are themselves practicing health care professionals.
The accreditation certificate is a symbol to others that an organization is committed to providing high-quality care and that it has demonstrated its commitment by measuring up to AAAHC’s high standards. The true value of accreditation, however, lies in the consultative and educational process that proceeds the awarding of the certificate. It is the self-analysis, peer-review, and consultation that ultimately helps an organization improve its care and services.
What are standards?
The standards, published in the Accreditation Handbook for Ambulatory Health Care, describe organizational characteristics that AAAHC believes are essential to high-quality patient care. They relate to such areas as quality of care and quality management and improvement, clinical records, surgical and pharmaceutical services, environmental safety, governance, administration, and professional development.
The standards have been developed over a period of more than 20 years by individuals presenting the highest levels of achievement in clinical practice and health care management. The standards are by definition dynamic and changing as medicine and health care change to reflect the highest levels of care.
Who decides whether an organization is accredited?
Before accreditation is awarded, an organization participates in a thorough multi-step evaluation process. The basic elements of the process are a self-assessment completed by the organization itself and an on-site survey conducted by a team of physicians, health care managers, and other health professionals who actively practice in organizations similar to those AAAHC surveys. All surveyors are volunteers, serving without pay because they believe in promoting high-quality ambulatory health care.
The AAAHC Board of Directors-another volunteer group of health care professionals- renders the final accreditation decision based on the surveyor’s findings and other information gathered during the survey process. Accreditation may be awarded for either a six-month, one, or three years, depending on the level of compliance with the standards.
Who makes up the board of AAAHC?
The physicians and health care executives who sit on the AAAHC board are appointed by eleven of the nation’s leading health care associations: American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery, American Academy of Dental Group Practice, American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, American College Health Association, American College of Occupational Health and Environmental Medicine, American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, Association of Freestanding Radiation Oncology Centers, Federal Ambulatory Surgery Association, Medical Group Management Association, and Outpatient Opthalmic Surgery Society.
What kinds of organizations seek accreditation?
AAAHC has conducted surveys in nearly every type of ambulatory health care organization including: ambulatory surgery centers, single- and multi-specialty group practices, health maintenance organizations and other managed care organizations, birthing centers, student health care centers, dental group practices, Oral & Maxillofacial surgeons, diagnostic imaging centers, endoscopy centers, cosmetics surgeons, dermatology practices, facial and plastic reconstructive surgeons, community health centers, Indian health centers, occupational health centers, freestanding radiation oncology centers, urgent and immediate care centers, office-based surgery centers and practices, pain management clinics, and podiatry offices.
How is AAAHC financed?
Funding of AAAHC comes from fees paid by surveyed organizations and contributions made by the national associations that make up the Board of Directors. AAAHC receives no government funding. It is able to maintain its extensive activities because of its volunteer surveyors and leadership and its administrative efficiency.
Why is accreditation so important?
Ambulatory health care organizations value accreditation as a measure of professional achievement and quality of care. They welcome the AAAHC survey as a constructive learning experience. And the certificate of accreditation has become a benchmark of quality not only to those involved in health care delivery and management, but to the general public.
Because of the excellence of AAAHC’s standards and the thoroughness of its survey procedures, many third-party payors such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans, commercial insurance carriers, and government agencies recognize and accept accreditation by AAAHC as meeting their requirements for reimbursement. Professional liability insurance carriers acknowledge that accreditation is a valuable indicator of quality and frequently consider it in evaluating an organization applying the coverage.
Encouraged by such recognition, AAAHC continues to expand its survey activities, to enhance its educational efforts, and to refine and improve its standards and survey procedures.
(All of the information above has been written and published by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care, Inc.)
For additional information on AAAHC visit their website at www.AAAHC.org