“Do you know what the Joint Commission is?” Usually the first question I have to ask an individual that doesn’t work in the addiction treatment or healthcare industry when explaining what Catalyst Recovery is. And, quite honestly, why should an individual know what the Joint Commission and their Gold Seal of Approval is? Call it naivety, but for most seeking help from medical and/or healthcare professionals in a time of crisis, the sometimes the last question they ask is about certifications or possible accreditations held by the organization. We assume that they must be on-par with the latest, greatest and most comprehensive protocols because, well, the company and staff are in the business of saving lives. My hope with this post is to offer some suggestion to the reader in the hopes that maybe the practice will be adopted; Start asking about those certifications and accreditations. They could make all the difference in the level of care that you, a love one or close friend can receive. Not all facilities, clinics or practices operates at the highest standard of care but there are indicators that can guide you to finding the operations that do.
What is the Joint Commission
As found on the Joint Commission’s website:
“An independent, not-for-profit organization, The Joint Commission accredits and certifies nearly 21,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States. Joint Commission accreditation and certification is recognized nationwide as a symbol of quality that reflects an organization’s commitment to meeting certain performance standards.
Our Mission: 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.
Vision Statement: All people always experience the safest, highest quality, best-value health care across all settings.”
The Joint Commission was founded in 1951 as an organization that sought, and continues to do so, to improve the quality and standards of hospitals and other healthcare organizations. Operating as the oldest and largest accrediting body in the United States, to achieve their approval and receive the Gold Seal of Approval after a comprehensive evaluation is considered one of the highest honors in the field of healthcare. Accreditation with the Joint Commission is not mandatory but those who do seek their accreditation do so voluntarily, often alongside State or Federal licensure(s) if their service require as such. The process to achieve Joint Commission accreditation is extensive and takes time, hard work and diligence to effectively maintain a healthcare service operating at the highest level of standards and care. Once policies and procedures have been identified, established and documented the Joint Commission will send out one, or multiple, Surveyors to comb through your entire organization. As detailed on the Joint Commission’s website in regards to the survey process:
“Q: What is an accreditation survey? What happens during an accreditation survey?
A: Joint Commission surveyors visit accredited health care organizations a minimum of once every 39 months (two years for laboratories) to evaluate standards compliance. This visit is called a survey. All regular Joint Commission accreditation surveys are unannounced.
Joint Commission surveyors are highly trained experts who are doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, laboratory medical technologists, and other health care professionals. The Joint Commission is the only health care accrediting body that requires its surveyors be certified.
During the survey, surveyors select patients randomly and use their medical records as a roadmap to evaluate standards compliance. As surveyors trace a patient’s experience in a health care organization, they talk to the doctors, nurses, and other staff who interacted with the patient. Surveyors also observe doctors and nurses providing care, and often speak to the patients themselves.
Joint Commission accreditation does not begin and end with the on-site survey. It is a continuous process. Every time a nurse double-checks a patient’s identification before administering a medication, every time a surgical team calls a” time out” to verify they agree they’re about to perform the correct procedure, at the correct site, on the correct patient, they live and breathe the accreditation process. Every three months, hospitals submit data to the Joint Commission on how they treat conditions such as heart attack care and pneumonia – data that is available to the public and updated quarterly on qualitycheck.org. Throughout the accreditation cycle, organizations are provided with a self-assessment scoring tool to help monitor their ongoing standards compliance. Joint Commission accreditation is woven into the fabric of a health care organization’s operations.”
Joint Commission in Behavioral Healthcare
As the addiction treatment industry started to grow I began to notice a greater number of Gold Seals on the various company’s websites and literature. This may be that as the number of facilities grew the more the accreditation gained recognition, but I like to think that the individuals who sought out the Joint Commission’s accreditation did so to stand out from the rest. As the number of treatment centers grew, unfortunately the amount of unsatisfactory practices grew as well. Healthcare is big business, especially the current structure we have in the United States. With a majority of treatment centers being for profit and the growing epidemic of substance abuse we began to see an alarming rise in unethical behaviors from these organizations presenting as “helping” and with the goal of “saving lives.” My post isn’t going to get into my opinions on these companies and the unethical, but more so to point out to the reader the importance of asking questions and digging into the facility or service to discover what certifications and accreditations they have. For a facility and organization to obtain approval from the Joint Commission, it speaks volumes to their practices and ethics. As is any service based industry, especially one that can never guarantee results, integrity is invaluable.
If any individual is looking for a treatment provider, my best suggestion would to be to start with their accreditations. It is my great hope that this post finds it’s way onto, at least, one screen of a reader looking for help or help for a loved one. Even in times of crisis it is ALWAYS best to investigate. Ask about the accreditations, licenses, clinical staff and billing practices. The more information you obtain in the beginning of a search can make a huge difference in the experience had in treatment. Both for the family and the individual receiving care. Though not a new accreditation, policy and procedure is what is needed now, more than ever in the field of addiction treatment. Families need to do their part too. Ask questions, spend the time researching and get informed as much as possible.
I encourage any and all readers to take some time to look through the Joint Commission website. I have included in this post the link to find programs throughout the country that have the Joint Commission Gold Seal of Approval. Ask questions and do your homework before sending your loved one to a facility!
Joint Commission Accredited Programs: www.QualityCheck.org
Joint Commission Website: www.JointCommission.org