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The PHAB Accreditation Process Explained
Considering PHAB accreditation? Get a brief overview of the process to learn what’s in store for you with this on-going performance improvement effort.
Most healthcare organizations pursue accreditation of one form or another. The types of accreditation vary by healthcare sector, but by and large, the process centers on an in-depth performance review. It’s not easy—and it’s not something a facility can do once and be done. Accreditation is a commitment to ongoing performance improvement, as well as measuring and reporting on that improvement to retain accreditation status.
In this article, we’re focusing on the public sector and the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) accreditation process. This brief overview can help your organization learn more about what PHAB has in store for you.
What is public health accreditation?
PHAB accreditation involves the “measurement of health department performance against a set of nationally recognized, practice-focused, and evidenced-based standards.” More specifically, PHAB accreditation requires that applicants meet 32 total standards across 12 domains.
Initial PHAB accreditation assesses a health department’s ability to perform “10 Essential Public Health Services”; it also measures your capacity to manage and communicate effectively with a governing entity.
Accreditation must be achieved within a specific timeframe and maintained year after year. As we mentioned in the introduction, this isn’t a “one and done” process—it requires continual quality improvement and process development to remain accredited. Health departments can hold the PHAB accreditation for five years and then must reapply.
If your organization is public, it can apply. Local, state, territorial, and tribal health departments are all eligible for PHAB accreditation.
Why pursue PHAB accreditation?
Even if you skimmed everything prior and just saw the image above, it’s still pretty clear that the PHAB accreditation process is a serious commitment. Why would any organization go to all this trouble? Because it works.
PHAB’s mission of improving and protecting the public health by transforming healthcare quality and performance is synonymous with the mission of hospitals. In other words, the goals of all parties are aligned. The in-depth self-review that’s inherent in accreditation has proven to help healthcare departments improve processes, community engagement, quality of care, and patient outcomes.
|Also, healthcare organizations that achieve accreditation can qualify for federal funding, and it increases their odds of receiving grants and donations. The additional financial support is a big contributor to providing the best care for patients.|
Seven Steps Of PHAB Accreditation Process
Hold your horses. Before you can even apply for PHAB accreditation, you have to prove you’re capable of undertaking the process. In this step, a healthcare organization must self-assess its readiness to apply via PHAB’s four Readiness Checklists, complete a four-part online orientation, and register with PHAB confirming intent to apply.
The checklists alone require detailed preparation to complete. If your healthcare facility doesn’t already have strategic plans and data reporting in place, it could take months to implement processes that make you ready to apply to PHAB.
After successfully passing the trial by fire of pre-application, your health department can formally submit its application and fee. At this point, you will have obtained approvals at the highest level (and well in advance) to pursue PHAB accreditation, demonstrating your rock-solid commitment to this ongoing process. The cost to apply also ensures this isn’t a casual pursuit—initial review fees range from $14,000 to $56,000, depending on population size. These fees are paid to PHAB and don’t include potential fees for third-party consultants.
Applicants must also complete a two-day, in-person training before moving to the next step.
3. Document Selection and Submission
This is where the rubber hits the road. Applicants provide documentation for each required PHAB measure and upload it to e-PHAB for review. This is one of the most important steps in the process. These documents and metrics prove the health department meets the PHAB accreditation standards; they are what the site team will review during their visit (wait for step four). Applicants have 12 months to submit documentation after completing step two.
It’s critical for healthcare facilities to use a performance management system like ClearPoint to track and report on required measures. Not only is this type of software a PHAB standard, but it fuels strategic planning and execution outside of the accreditation process. We've outlined how ClearPoint can simplify this step and make the submission less stressful here.
4. Site Visit
After initial documentation is submitted, a small group of PHAB experts visit your facility in person. This trained team will verify documentation accuracy, ask follow-up questions about standards and measures, and generally discuss your application and documentation further.
The PHAB on-site team develops a report after the visit that summarizes whether or not each PHAB measure was tracked appropriately, as well as areas of excellence and areas of improvement in health department practices. That report is submitted to the PHAB Accreditation Committee.
5. Accreditation Decision
The Accreditation Committee reviews the site visit report and decides whether to award your healthcare organization accreditation status. If PHAB accreditation is won, you retain that designation for five years (as long as you submit annual reports...see next step).
If accreditation is denied, you have the opportunity to submit an Action Plan to address areas of non-compliance and achieve accreditation status.
After you earn accreditation, you can’t rest on your laurels. To maintain your recognition, health departments must submit annual reports that summarize how they’ve addressed areas of improvement since the prior report and verify continuing compliance with PHAB accreditation standards.
PHAB accreditation expires after five years. Unfortunately, there’s no shortcut for reaccreditation—the process begins at step two with the application.
Recommendations For Pursuing PHAB Accreditation
A big part of earning accreditation is being able to offer proof that you are continually improving processes and the overall quality of healthcare services. Manual processes and Excel formulas aren’t going to cut it and PHAB makes that clear in standard 9.1: “Use a performance management system to monitor achievement of organizational objectives.”
This seems more than reasonable when you consider PHAB requires you meet 32 standards across 12 domains. Even if you’re trying to meet the public health accreditation standards of other organizations, they are likely just as rigorous, and you’re going to need the help of technology.
ClearPoint’s performance management software can:
- Keep teams organized as they work together to meet PHAB’s accreditation standards with project management tools, including Gantt charts. You can see a timeline of when each step is due, assign task ownership, and use automation tools to make sure people are aware of due dates and end dates.
- Automate tracking of measures and metrics like KPIs to populate the initial PHAB documentation, as well as the annual reports. You can see status indicators of progress and view dashboard summaries.
- Set up templates to streamline the process of creating the reports you need for PHAB’s standards and measures. Simply build them once, compile them into a briefing book, and then update annually with a few clicks. You don’t have to start from scratch for every annual report or when reapplying for accreditation.
Contact us to learn more about how ClearPoint can help you meet public health accreditation standards.