(Reprinted IMTJ 1-2020)
Elizabeth Ziemba, President of Medical Tourism Training has heard a variety of myths, misconceptions, and unfounded rumours about what accreditation is and what it can do. She also knows of some unethical behaviours that contribute to the confusion. In her article, she separates fact from fiction.
Below are five of the most often heard and repeated fallacies about accreditation within the healthcare and medical tourism sectors.
Myth #1: Accreditation is a fault-finding mission.
Myth: Healthcare providers can be a little afraid of accreditation, seeing it as a way to find things that are wrong. They labour under the misconception that assessors will walk through their hospitals or clinics pointing out everything that is wrong, real or imagined. It is perceived to be a fault-finding expedition that points fingers, lays blame, and imposes guilt on responsible parties.
Fact: Accreditation is a collaborative team-building process designed to guide organisations to become better at everything they do. Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI), patient safety, risk management, and an excellent patient experience are the four pillars of a good accreditation program.
Accreditation offers the best clinical and non-clinical practices to inspire hospitals and clinics to improve their systems and processes to benefit patients, staff, and the overall organisation. The self-assessment component of accreditation breaks down barriers among departments to create a cohesive approach to service delivery, improving the patient experience as well as the bottom line. Assessors offer advice, share examples, support and coach clients to a higher level of excellence.
Fact: Working with an appropriate accreditation company dispels this and other misconceptions about accreditation and engages the healthcare organisation in a journey of Continuous Quality Improvement.
Myth #2: Accreditation is just completing a “To Do” check list.
Myth: Assessors will show up with a check list of items, and make sure everything on the list is there. When everything on the list is ticked off, accreditation is granted.
Fact: Accreditation is a holistic approach to ensuring that the systems and processes within a clinic or hospital are integrated and functioning optimally to maximise the benefits to patients, staff, and the organisation overall. A check list approach simply cannot and does not work. For example, a check list approach would look to see if the hospital has fire extinguishers. An accreditation assessor will want to know if the fire extinguishers work, if people know where they are located, who knows how to operate them, and so on.
Myth #3: Accreditation automatically leads to more patients.
Myth: “My hospital or clinic should get accreditation because I want more patients. If I put the accreditation seal on the website and at the front door, more patients will come to us for services”. A more unfortunate scenario reported to me is that assessors have been told, by less than ethical individuals, that just getting the accreditation will result in more patients.
Fact: Accreditation is designed to improve the quality of clinical and non-clinical services for hospitals and clinics. Enhanced quality of services is one factor that individual patients as well as third party payors look for when selecting where to go or where to send people for healthcare. The benefits of accreditation, once measured and analysed, can be used for marketing purposes; however, it is the responsibility of the provider to develop and market the qualities that are sought after in the marketplace, rather than promoting the accreditation badge.
Fact: Accreditation by itself will not “auto-magically” bring more patients to a hospital or clinic. It is one component of successful marketing that depends on a number of factors including consumer choice, the organisation’s Unique Selling Proposition, and more. Accreditation is a tool, not a magic wand.
Fact: Ethical accreditation companies will never promise or represent that accreditation automatically leads to more patients.
Myth #4: Accreditation companies offer more than accreditation services.
Myth: Accreditation bodies offer more than just accreditation, such as access to mailing lists, databases, and insurance company contracts. These add-ons are promoted to healthcare organisations as free business-building services.
Fact: Ethical accreditation organisations do one thing and one thing only: provide independent, neutral, professional, and independent assessments of the quality of the clinical and nonclinical services provided by a healthcare organisation.
Fact: Developing marketing and sales is the responsibility of the hospital or clinic, not the accreditation organisation that has been selected. Accreditation organisations that offer “freebies” or add-ons like mailing lists, databases, or other promises are over-stepping their role as independent assessors. Clients depend on the neutrality and independence of assessors and can lose trust when offered promises that are misleading or “too good to be true”.
Fact: Hospitals or clinics tempted by these extra services are very likely to be disappointed. Reputable accreditation companies are not designed to provide other services and it is likely that these will be hollow offers with little or no value to an organisation.
Myth #5: We are already doing things well and do not need accreditation because we have always done it this way.
Myth: Our hospital or clinic is already doing great and are succeeding doing what we are doing. We have always done it this way. We don’t need to change. Accreditation won’t help us.
Fact: Healthcare services around the world are changing and evolving quickly. It is challenging to keep up with the daily demands of managing a hospital or clinic. It is the role of accreditation organisations to monitor clinical research, keep informed of new best practices, evolving trends, availability of new technology, and other aspects of the delivery of the best possible healthcare and patient services. Smart healthcare providers rely on a long-term relationship with a trusted accreditation partner to fulfil these tasks on behalf of their clients.
Fact: There is always room for improvement that can bring a variety of benefits to a healthcare organisation, including happier and healthier patients, engaged staff, improved revenues, and an enhanced reputation. If a hospital or clinic is already known for its excellence, chances are it is interested in continuing the pursuit of improving its clinical and nonclinical services. Accreditation can accelerate that process, often resulting in a stronger competitive edge.
The biggest obstacle on the road to excellence is the mindset of “We have always done it this way”. If you are standing still, then you are being left behind.
About the author
Elizabeth Ziemba, JD, MPH is Regional Representative for Temos Accreditation and President of Medical Tourism Training, Inc.