Are you missing out on potential applicants because they can't afford the time and effort it takes to apply? You don't have to lower your standards. Instead, learn how to make your process less cumbersome.
Accreditation is meant to be challenging and push organizations to be their best. But if it becomes impossible to attain because of complex procedures, you’ll fall short in your mission to uphold your industry’s standards.
If your applicants are struggling under the weight of your accreditation process, it’s time to take a closer look at your program’s structure. To get you started, we’ve gathered four examples of best practices from leading accreditors that you can adopt to simplify your process.
Remove Unnecessary Data Collection
URAC is a Washington DC-based non-profit organization that helps promote health care quality through the accreditation of medical organizations. They recently announced plans to significantly reduce the amount of information required by applying organizations.
In a press release, they explained the reasoning for the change. "We've listened to feedback from our clients and are striving to meet their call to reduce the administrative burden associated with accreditation without compromising the integrity of our quality process," said Shawn Griffin, M.D., URAC President and CEO. "We're proud to announce that we have reduced the general organization data collection required, in some instances, by as much as 90%."
URAC previously required detailed documentation about an organization’s structure, governance, staff, and business model. However, a closer look at what they were collecting led to the realization that most of the information wasn’t relevant to their decision-making process.
Your Next Step
Make it a priority to examine your accreditation requirements with a critical eye.
Is the time invested by the applicant balanced by the value you gain from it as an accreditor?
Does the requirement provide the insight you need, or is there a better way?
Is this requirement creating an unnecessary obstacle? Especially for smaller organizations?
How difficult is it for an organization to assess whether they’re prepared to apply?
Assess Clarity in Communications
The Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA) accredits eligible clinical doctoral programs in audiology and master's degree programs in speech-language pathology.
For the 2019-2020 program year, CAA plans to analyze its communications through a series of audits, interviews, and surveys, examining timeliness, clarity, and appropriateness. They’re also developing resources for what new program directors need to know and when, with regard to CAA’s processes and their accreditation status.
They recognized the importance of getting the right message to the right person at the right time. Doing this well can make the accreditation process move along more seamlessly for everyone.
Your Next Step
Are your processes and instructions clear and easy to understand? A communications audit (perhaps by a third-party) can help you see any blind spots and assumptions. You could also interview program participants to find out where they’re getting stuck or confused. It can be helpful to provide prompts, such as:
If only we’d known X beforehand, it would have been so much easier.
You requested X, but it didn’t seem necessary to your evaluation.
If you had provided X, we would have understood more clearly.
In their strategic plan for 2017 - 2021, one of their objectives was to “create technology strategies to improve accreditation program efficiency and effectiveness.” To do this, they implemented a formal technology audit to identify current and future technology needs.
CODA realized that in order to keep pace with the expectations of being a leading accreditor in their industry, they had to ensure a solid technology foundation.
Your Next Step
Whether you’ve been using a combination of homegrown systems or accreditation management software, technology changes fast. it’s important to periodically assess your current system to find efficiencies, reduce redundancies, and improve the applicant experience. As part of your audit, you could:
Get direct feedback from applicants as part of a satisfaction survey. Be sure to ask specific questions about each step of the process. What’s working well? What isn’t? Encourage suggestions on what would help them move through the accreditation program faster.
Track the types of questions that come into your office through phone and email. Identify a few top categories and ask your staff to tick them off as they receive them. You’ll quickly see where the problems are.
Align with Similar Programs
The American Medical Association (AMA) and the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) recently simplified and aligned their expectations for the AMA PRA Category 1 Credit. In addition, they produced a shared glossary of terms and definitions for accredited CME providers and learners.
The changes were developed by the Bridge Committee, made up of staff and volunteers from both organizations. The AMA and ACCME recognized a need for proactive communication on the evolution of the two complementary systems in their field.
Your Next Step
Think about whether your organization needs a “bridge” to similar certifications, accreditations, or licensing programs. Here are some questions to consider:
Is there a need for shared terminology?
How could you collaborate to reduce the learning curve for each program?
What requirements could you align, so if the applicant already has one designation, it would be easier to complete your accreditation?
Hopefully, these innovative improvements to accreditation programs have given you some inspiration for streamlining your own processes.
If you’re looking for effective ways to lead the charge for safety, quality, and innovation, making your programs easier to navigate is the first step to achieving your mission.