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4 ways accreditation supports the human services ecosystem

A recent report discusses the future of community-based human services. Here is how accreditation plays into it.

By CARF International

In late January, a call-to-action report was commissioned by the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities (Alliance) and the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) called A National Imperative: Joining Forces to Strengthen Human Services in America. It’s worth a read.

Telling the story of a fictional American county, the 64-page report offers a comprehensive look at the factors that affect a strong ecosystem of community-based organizations (CBOs). It covers financial challenges, operational strength, outcomes management, risk management, funder requirements, social determinants of health, societal costs, and much more.

The report identifies five categories of suggested initiatives:

  • Commitment to outcomes.
  • Capacity for innovation.
  • A strategic partnership approach.
  • Financial management policies and practices.
  • Regulatory modernization.

The report does not mention third-party accreditation, but maybe it should have. The first four initiatives are directly supported by CARF standards, meaning, if you’re a CBO applying the standards for accreditation, you’re likely strengthening the overall ecosystem.

Here are the standards and other CARF resources that can offer guidance to your organization on these specific topics.

1. Commitment to outcomes

The report asks: “What steps can each group of ecosystem stakeholders consider to promote a true shift to evidence and outcomes-based strategies?”

It is critical that organizations in behavioral health now make a concerted effort to define measures of performance that are standard and comparable to the rest of the health system so that they can articulate their value externally.

Michael Johnson, CARF’s Managing Director of Behavioral Health

CARF tools and commentary about commitment to outcomes:

  • Standards for sustainable business practices (ASPIRE©):
    • Input from Persons Served and Other Stakeholders—identifying outcomes that are relevant and important to a CBO’s stakeholders.
    • Performance Measurement and Management—identifying, collecting, and analyzing reliable outcomes data.
    • Performance Improvement—using outcomes data to improve business practices and service delivery.
  • uSPEQ survey tools
    Survey tools to gather Consumer Experience and Employee Climate data.
  • Canada advanced performance measurement
    Similar to the Transforming Outcomes institute, this three-day training will take the mystery out of defining, measuring, and reporting the performance of your programs and services.

Aging Services only:

2. Capacity for innovation

The report asks: “How can each group of ecosystem stakeholders best contribute to accelerating the creation of capacity for innovation in the sector?”

It’s making sure that not only are we taking care of the patient at this particular moment, but our business practices are in place and solid so that we’ll be available to take care of those patients in the future.

Wanda  Bennett, former CARF Surveyor

CARF tools and commentary about capacity for innovation:

  • Standards for sustainable business practices:
    • Strategic Planning—assessing the environment, use of technology, leadership and governance.
    • Risk Management—succession planning, emergency preparedness, and communications.
    • Workforce Development and Management—hiring for outcomes, competency-based training, and managing performance to objectives.
    • Technology—technology & system planning and use for information management, performance improvement, service delivery, and training.
  • Developing sophisticated systems for success (Complimentary)
    A whitepaper produced by John Franklin, Managing Director/Group Head at BB&T Capital Markets Healthcare Finance Group. John is a member of CARF’s Financial Advisory Panel.
  • Promising Practices Newsletters (Complimentary)
    Newsletters feature mini case studies of programs that have developed innovative practices.

3. A strategic partnership approach

The report asks: “What steps can each group of ecosystem stakeholders consider in order to spur greater service integration and collaboration?”

Integration of services, sharing of healthcare records and outcomes data, and closer relationships among providers contribute to keeping people out of inpatient settings and in their communities.

Brad Contento, corporate communications, CARF International

CARF tools and commentary about strategic partnership:

  • Standards for service delivery and quality programming:
    • The core program standards, which are unique to each manual, cover working with community resources, education systems, correctional facilities, and more. They also cover using collaborative partnerships to supplement services or to address gaps.
  • Where CARF surveyors come from (Complimentary)
    A blog article featuring interviews with three former CARF surveyors who are now CARF staff members. They shared some interesting information on how surveyors are collaborative and share knowledge throughout industries.

4. Financial management policies and practices

The report asks: “What steps can each group of stakeholders consider in order to spur the development of new strategies to create more stable, sustainable finances for human services CBOs?”

An organization is better able to define success with proactive long-term financial planning measures. As the future financial position of an organization is impacted by ever changing marketplace factors such as coding, payment, reimbursement, and costs, the strategic plan might include information reflecting long-term financial planning to support the goals and priorities identified.

CARF Standards Manual, ASPIRE to Excellence® framework

CARF tools and commentary about financial management:

  • Standards for sustainable business practices:
    • Financial Planning and Management—fiscally responsible practices; budgeting for outcomes; analyzing and reporting results; and identifying trends, challenges, and opportunities.

Aging Services only:

Sophisticated systems infographic
Sophisticated Systems for Business Success.

“Sophisticated systems” is a term coined by John Franklin, Managing Director/Group Head at BB&T Capital Markets Healthcare Finance Group. The human service industry struggles with a changing funder environment and lack of consensus on what outcomes measures should look like. Sophisticated systems are the methods and processes an organization uses to create and measure outcomes and position itself for the future.

CARF’s ASPIRE to Excellence quality framework helps organizations build sophisticated systems, and is adaptable to the human service industry’s many unique service offerings.

(Aging Services,Behavioral Health,Employment and Community Services,Child and Youth Services,Medical Rehabilitation,Performance Management and Improvement)

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