College health organizations are increasingly turning to accreditation to assure students are receiving the best care possible. The process is voluntary and provides the ability to measure and compare the quality of services and performance against nationally-recognized standards. The benefits of accreditation are exponential, but the process can be overwhelming.

At Colorado State University Health Network, we’re accredited by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC), and when it was time to get reaccredited, I was assigned the task of managing the project. In the past, this included locating thousands of pages of documentation, printing them out as proof of compliance, compiling them in large binders, and shipping everything to a surveyor. Then, we waited for the on-site survey to validate we hadn’t missed anything. This process usually took 18 months and additional hourly staff to complete.

Before getting started, I thought there has to be a technology solution that would simplify the process and cut down on the amount of paper, files, and binders. While attending a conference, I visited with AAAHC to learn more and garner tips for our upcoming assessment. I asked if there was an alternative way to prepare for and conduct the self-survey electronically, perhaps with a software solution. AAAHC shared a few options with me and after seeing the products firsthand, we decided to invest in PowerDMS.

By using technology, we completed our AAAHC accreditation preparation in six months—a task that previously took 18 months. We also saved over $150,000 in staffing and supply costs. This time and money savings is significant and turned out to be a few of the many benefits we’ve experienced. Here are some more:

1) Increased staff involvement and buy-in

The use of technology has resulted in a cultural shift for our organization. Accreditation is now something that everyone is part of and buys into—they are no longer just an observer. In the past, the staff knew that we met the accreditation standard, but they couldn’t validate it or share the information with a new employee. We now have a place to keep historical accreditation survey data and can share results with staff, anytime.

2) Immediate access to policies and procedures

Before PowerDMS, our manuals were kept in the accreditation manager’s office; the policies were hard to find and reference, and the knowledge base was limited to those who had access to the documents. Now, having these items readily available ensures patients are getting the same information and answers to their questions. There is no risk of outdated information.

Watch How to Simplify Your AAAHC Accreditation with PowerDMS

3) Confidence knowing everything is up-to-date

The online central repository PowerDMS provides houses our most up-to-date documents and makes them accessible to all staff members—something impossible with hard copies. It’s the single source of truth for the most current information. Also, updates from AAAHC are pushed directly to us electronically, and we never have to wonder if a change has been made.

4) Change in onsite survey

After we electronically built our AAAHC assessment, we were able to send PowerDMS login information to the surveyor to begin the on-site process ten days before their visit. Since the surveyor sees everything before arriving at our center, on-sites have become more conversational and less evaluative.

5) Less paper, files and binders (a lot less!)

In the past, our accreditation preparation would leave us with close to 20 binders, containing approximately 500 pages per binder. We had to hire additional staff to put this information together and organize it. Storage of these binders was a problem, and they would end up in the accreditation manager’s office, inaccessible to other staff members. By using a web-based policy management software, we can store all these documents online, in a central, easily-accessible location.  I have yet to buy a new binder!

About Allis Gilbert
Allis Gilbert is the director of operations at Colorado State University Health Network. The Health Network has a staff of 250 and serves a student population of 27,000. Allis has been in her current role for almost five years. Prior to CSU, she served as an Army Officer with the Medical Service Corps in a similar role, reporting medical logistics. Allis played an integral role in CSU Health Network’s successful 2014 AAAHC reaccreditation.

AAAHC Members: Click here to learn more about managing your accreditation electronically.