How to simplify AAAHC accreditation

Five steps to streamline your Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC) accreditation process.

December 23, 2020

Article highlights

  • Benefits of accreditation.
  • How to achieve AAAHC accreditation in half the time.
  • Getting started.

Healthcare facilities constantly strive for excellence in many areas, including high-quality patient care, safety, risk mitigation, financial responsibility, and operational efficiency – all while meeting stringent rules, laws, guidelines, and regulations.

This means facilities need to adapt to the ever-changing landscape of serving patients and implementing best practices to deliver high-quality care the community expects.

That is where AAAHC accreditation comes into play.

Founded in 1979, the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC) is the leader in ambulatory healthcare accreditation. Over the years, AAAHC has accredited more than 6,100 organizations in a wide range of outpatient settings.

When ambulatory health care facilities aim to operate according to industry best practices, they can thank AAAHC. The organization advocates for top-notch health care by developing and adopting nationally recognized standards. Facilities don’t have to guess what high quality means because AAAHC sets the bar high and lays it all out, standard by standard, as a model to follow.

Who is AAAHC accreditation for? It is commonly sought after by ambulatory surgery centers, office-based surgery facilities, endoscopy centers, community health centers, employer-based health clinics, and similar healthcare organizations.

But the real answer is AAAHC accreditation is for those seeking to prove they are the best of the best and looking to be recognized for their excellence, experience, and quality of care.

Besides providing your healthcare facility with a rigorous, peer-based, on-site review, AAAHC accreditation demonstrates your facility’s commitment to safe, high-quality services. Moreover, AAAHC accreditation is recognized by medical professional associations, third-party payers, liability insurance companies, state and federal agencies, and the public. In other words, earning AAAHC accreditation is a badge of honor.

Of course, becoming accredited comes with a cost in terms of both time and money – even for facilities already operating at the highest levels. And it involves an enormous amount of paperwork, especially if you haven’t adopted a more modern solution.

Benefits of accreditation

Why should ambulatory healthcare centers seek AAAHC accreditation?

For starters, it provides access to high-quality AAAHC standards that will improve your risk prevention activities, policies, and procedures. Think of the AAAHC accreditation process as a gateway to the insider information you need to meet the gold standard of care.

For example, by knowing what to aim for via AAAHC standards, you might adopt new activities – such as checklists and screening tools – that can improve your services, boost efficiencies, mitigate risks, and reduce liabilities.

Next, a peer audit gives you a third-party perspective about how your facility operates. Don’t overlook the enormous value of getting evaluated and assessed by a group of peers.

As you prepare for accreditation, you cross-walk your policies and compliance documentation with AAAHC standards, which helps point out areas of need and provides good insights into how you can improve. The accreditation process involves bringing in a team of peers to review your department, your processes, your documents, and your overall operations to make sure you are meeting those high AAAHC standards.

This review from seasoned, accredited ambulatory health care professionals provides valuable insights into how to better serve your patients.

Finally, you get an improved process for credentialing and privileging – a complex endeavor for all facilities.

According to an AAAHC report, one of the biggest obstacles healthcare facilities face in meeting AAAHC standards is poorly managed credentialing of all these visiting physicians. The accreditation process provides some structure for how you track and manage privileges, such as performing more audits, adopting standardized forms, and using a credentialing verification organization. This helps ensure providers follow proper credentialing procedures and renew licenses and certifications before they expire.

While AAAHC provides some help, many of our customers use PowerDMS to streamline the process. How? By storing documents like preference cards, privileging, credentialing, licensing, peer reviews, training, policies, procedures, and any other relevant records.


How to achieve AAAHC accreditation in half the time

While the AAAHC accreditation process can prove daunting, it’s certainly doable, especially with the right tools to ease the workload and shave hours off the time it takes to pull documentation together. In fact, you can cut your accreditation time in half.

Enter PowerDMS, a cloud-based accreditation management solution that helps you achieve AAAHC accreditation easier, faster, and with fewer resources from your facility.

Take a page from Colorado State University (CSU) Health Network, a student health center that serves more than 16,000 patients each year.

When CSU decided to go through the AAAHC accreditation process, the former Operations Director, Allis Gilbert, wanted to find a better solution for all the documentation required. Upon noticing an accumulation of binders used for CSU’s assessment/self-survey, Allis sought out a software solution.

After investing in PowerDMS, which streamlined the process and managed AAAHC accreditation electronically, CSU saved over $139k in staffing and supply costs.

Create a central repository for your files

Ditch your highlighters and binders. When you need to prove your operations meet AAAHC standards, you want to quick and easily access everything you need to compare your facility’s policies and procedures to the AAAHC standards manual.

Instead of combing through policy manual and highlighting standards – truly a tedious and time-consuming task – you can streamline the process by digitizing your files and storing them in a central repository.

Once you get all of your accreditation files into a single, digital repository, you can tap into the efficiency of PowerDMS, which publishes those AAAHC standards directly in our software.

With the built-in capabilities of PowerDMS, you use our digital tools to make those highlights – and audit and assess those highlights – electronically. This central repository not only speeds up the process, but it also saves you money on paper and printing costs.

Easily delegate tasks

In a bustling ambulatory health care center, you probably wear multiple hats as you juggle your day-to-day responsibilities. Adding the AAAHC accreditation tasks to your to-do list can feel overwhelming.

The best way to achieve accreditation is to delegate tasks. Different people within the facility will know more about their areas and how to achieve compliance, so they need to be brought into the process.

With PowerDMS, you can assign people the specific tasks and policies they need to review and update, you can attach evidences of compliance for their areas, and you can track progress all from our software.

Automate document reviews

Typically, the AAAHC accreditation process involves a lot of changes as the facility aims to improve operations. With PowerDMS, you can create automated workflows so the appropriate people review and approve changes before they are published.

Most importantly, the accreditation manager can see any compliance gaps and take immediate action to ensure those changes and updates are ready for your next assessment.

Ditch the binders for your assessment

You might have heard horror stories of assessments essentially being three people stuck in a conference room with stacks of binders and highlighters reviewing AAAHC standards compliance.

With PowerDMS, the assessors can get access to the files before they ever step on site, giving them the chance to review much of the material prior to their visit. In turn, this saves you the resources and hassles commonly associated with on-site assessments.

Thanks to the integration of the Standards and Policy tools within PowerDMS, you can attach policies related to specific standards to quickly and easily show assessors proof of compliance.

When they do arrive, they will spend more time in the facility talking with employees and providers to truly see how you are operating with excellence, instead of face down at a conference table going line-by-line through your binder. This creates a more relaxed assessment and provides a greater opportunity to interact with and learn from the assessors.


Notify staff of changes

As noted earlier, there will be a lot of changes to processes and procedures during this AAAHC accreditation process. Staff will struggle to keep up with all of these changes if you don’t have a comprehensive, cohesive way to communicate and track how these changes are being sent out to staff.

PowerDMS handles all of that for you, allowing you to track, to the individual employee, who has read and acknowledged each change. In fact, you can even pull up the changes in a side-by-side view to compare what has changed and what has stayed the same.

Getting started

If you want to prove your facility is the best of the best and get recognized for your level of excellence, AAAHC is the way to go. But if you still rely on a paper system as you pursue AAAHC accreditation or reaccreditation, it’s time to replace the nightmarish, time-consuming, manual process with a more streamlined, modern, digital approach.

You can literally cut your accreditation process time in half, saving you time and money along the way. You can provide faster proofs of compliance, eliminate the frustration of searching through mounds of paperwork to find the AAAHC standard you are looking for.

PowerDMS puts everything – policies, training, and other key compliance documents – at your fingertips, with the most updated version ready for viewing every time.

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