New CARF accreditation standards address variability of care in concussion rehabilitation

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More than 270 stakeholders provided feedback to create the first international best-practice framework

CARF International has developed the first interdisciplinary, field-driven standards of its kind for Concussion Rehabilitation Programs, which will be released in January 2024. The accreditation standards will be used by programs that support individuals with concussion to achieve their desired outcomes as they return to school, work, sport, and other life roles.

Concussions are a type of traumatic brain injury that affect an estimated 69 million people worldwide annually and result from a variety of causes including falls, car accidents, sports-related injuries, physical assaults, military service-related injuries, and other forms of trauma.

Many people who experience a concussion have symptoms that resolve within one month, however some continue to experience persisting symptoms for a prolonged period of time. Individuals who have experienced a concussion may benefit from rehabilitation throughout their recovery.

“The understanding of the immediate and long-term impact of a concussion on a person has progressed significantly in the last decade,” said CARF Chief Medical Officer Michael Connolly, D.O. “Current evidence-based guidelines for evaluation and treatment, both acute and post-acute, have improved accordingly. The CARF standards incorporate these guidelines in a realistic, patient-centered manner to offer the highest level of care to persons served who have experienced a concussion.”

CARF developed the Concussion Rehabilitation Program standards as a resource to healthcare providers and community stakeholders regarding concussion prevention, identification, management, and rehabilitation.

“As we see the number of concussion rehabilitation programs expand across the world, CARF accreditation, led by peer surveyors, will assure the public that these accredited programs are held to the highest standards of quality and performance improvement,” said Terrence Carolan, CARF managing director of medical rehabilitation and aging services.

The concussion rehabilitation standards include the following content areas:

  • Scope of services provided
  • Program structure
  • Initial and ongoing assessments by an interdisciplinary team
  • Coordination and integration of services
  • Competency-based training of personnel
  • Use of evidence-based practice
  • Participation in research opportunities
  • Education for persons served, the public, and stakeholders across the care continuum
  • Impact on the family and support system
  • Education and advocacy regarding underserved and underdiagnosed populations
  • Engagement with healthcare providers across the continuum as well as community stakeholders

Accreditation for concussion rehabilitation demonstrates a program’s capability of addressing the diverse and potentially complex health and rehabilitation needs of individuals who have experienced a concussion and provides integrated, evidence-based, person-centered care that promotes self-management, self-advocacy, and prevention of future concussion.

The standards will be published in the 2024 Medical Rehabilitation Standards Manual and accreditation surveys using the standards begins July 1, 2024. CARF’s concussion standards introduce an established, international mechanism to share and adopt best practices to improve outcomes.

“The field of concussion continues to evolve rapidly, and using CARF’s field-driven standards to achieve accreditation ensures that individuals with concussion are receiving evidence-based care from an interdisciplinary team at the time when it is needed most,” says Carolan.

Programs that achieve concussion rehabilitation accreditation will be able to demonstrate to persons served, regulators, and payers that they offer a comprehensive array of services and supports designed to help persons served achieve recovery.

CARF’s process for creating new standards includes convening an International Standards Advisory Committee (ISAC) and conducting a public field review. Development of the concussion rehabilitation standards occurred throughout 2023 and involved more than 270 expert stakeholders from across the field of concussion, including individuals with lived experience of concussion and their family members.

About CARF International

Founded in 1966 as the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, CARF International is an independent, nonprofit accreditor of health and human services in the areas of aging services; behavioral health; child and youth services; employment and community services; medical rehabilitation; and opioid treatment programs. The CARF International group of organizations includes CARF, CARF Canada, and CARF Europe and accredits more than 65,000 programs on five continents. More than 13.7 million persons of all ages are served annually by CARF-accredited providers.

For more information about the accreditation process, please visit the CARF International website at carf.org.

Reporters and members of the media interested in more information about CARF, visit our News Center at carf.org/news, and our Media Center at carf.org/media-center/ to connect with CARF accreditation experts.

CARF International headquarters is located at 6951 East Southpoint Road, Tucson, AZ 85756-9407, toll free (888) 281‑6531. CARF has offices in Washington, D.C.; Edmonton, Alberta; Toronto, Ontario; and London, U.K.

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