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We all loved it as kids: that magical, wispy thin paper that let us trace and transfer every curve and detail of elaborate pictures from one surface to another and call them our own. Suddenly we were “drawing” the likes of Calvin and Hobbes, Snoopy and our favorite giraffes with ease. But what about tracing as it relates to grown-up gap analysis and accreditation?

The tracer methodology grabs one variable–one particular patient’s chart, a few lumps of coal in a coal mine, or single bottle of Coca-Cola at a bottler–and follows, or traces, every move and step it takes as it makes its way through an organization or facility. Kinda like when you lose your keys and everyone tells you to retrace your steps (and you roll your eyes because you’ve always already done that). The information collected in this blow-by-blow tracking is pure gold for companies and organizations with their eyes on the accreditation prize, as well as those fixated on standing out from their competition.

LightbulbFirst thing’s first. Choosing an auditor to dive head-first into gap analysis will unscramble the process and eliminate too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen syndrome. This champion can hit the ground running and list elements of your organization’s present situation, list goals for the future, and cross reference to reveal gaps.Tracers can serve as light bulbs in the gap analysis process, cluing you in to compliance trouble spots and your organization’s shortfalls that could be holding you back from earning the accreditation you’re after.

In other words, where are you now and where do you want to be? Is there a slowing bottleneck at one particular point in the bottling process? Are your nurses consistently dropping the ball at discharge?

While tracer methodology can be applied to any field or industry, with a brighter spotlight shining on patient care, healthcare is taking center stage. A surveyor talks to everyone involved in treating the patient they have chosen to trace–from the receptionist in admission to the surgeon in the operating room to the patient themselves. Armed with this data, any issues with compliance and patient care can be eliminated before they have a chance to spread.Child_Drawing-300x200