This article is sponsored by The Joint Commission. In this Voices interview, Home Health Care News sits down with Beth Ann Longo, Associate Director of The Joint Commission’s Department of Research, to learn about the value of Joint Commission accreditation for home-based care providers. Longo also shares results from a recent Joint Commission study on home health agency performance with and without Joint Commission accreditation.
Home Health Care News: What career experiences do you most draw from, in your role today?
Beth Ann Longo: As a researcher in The Joint Commission’s Department of Research, my area of focus is evaluation research. There is much that can be drawn from this type of research given its importance to continuous improvement. My team and I use qualitative and quantitative methods to carry out research activities, such as assessing program effectiveness or assessing outcomes of a specific intervention or program.
The results of these types of studies provide useful feedback that informs program developers of refinements that may be needed to better assist organizations with their improvement efforts.
You recently led a study that demonstrates a relationship between Joint Commission accreditation and stronger performance, better outcomes and higher quality. What were some of the key takeaways from the study?
Longo: In 2017, my colleagues conducted a study using CMS measure data from 2013 to 2015 and found that Joint Commission accredited home health agencies performed better than non-Joint Commission-accredited home health agencies on a number of quality measures. Our next study used CMS measure data from 2016 to 2018 to assess whether the impact of Joint Commission accreditation could still be observed after CMS modified some of their quality measures and star rating methodology.
The key takeaway was that the results were consistent with the original study suggesting a clear relationship between Joint Commission accreditation and home health agency quality. Another key takeaway was the ability for Joint Commission-accredited home health agencies to sustain strong performance over time.
How did you measure the quality of that data and quantify those values in a comparable and accessible way?
Longo: There are nearly 11,000 home health agencies that report data to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The data are publicly available and include the CMS star ratings. The star ratings are based upon OASIS measures — such as how often the home health team taught patients about their drugs — and claims-based measures, such as how often home health patients had to be admitted to the hospital.
The data used for our study were obtained from the CMS Home Health Compare dataset. We split that data set into two groups: those that are accredited by The Joint Commission (2,085) and those that are not (8,695).
When you compare one organization’s quality to another, what do the differences mean?
Longo: As one of the key takeaways of this study, the differences in quality suggest that a relationship between Joint Commission accreditation and home health agency performance does exist. Important to note, however, is that observational studies cannot determine causation, only that a relationship exists.
I’d like to point out that accreditation is regarded as a well-established mechanism for promoting quality and patient safety in health care. This could be, in part, a result of the structures, systems and processes that organizations put in place to meet accreditation standards. Joint Commission-accredited home health agencies may have performed better because they must meet standards that focus on measuring, assessing and improving performance as a requirement for achieving accreditation.
There are plenty of excellent organizations out there that are not accredited. But our study suggests that if you want to increase your chances of finding a high-quality organization, looking for accreditation is likely to increase your odds of finding one.
For home care specifically, how does better quality translate to better business? Why will that be important for the future of the industry?
Longo: Achieving a high star rating is important to home health agencies – their reputation, their stakeholders and their relationship with referral networks. A high star rating conveys to the public that the agency focuses on delivering high-quality care, ensuring patient safety, and addressing patient needs.
We believe that seeking and maintaining accreditation — i.e. voluntarily committing to meet quality and safety standards and opening your doors to a rigorous inspection by The Joint Commission — can help home health agencies hold themselves accountable, and that this leads to more consistent high quality care. The relationship between higher star ratings and accreditation seems to reflect that commitment to quality.
How do Joint Commission-accredited customers compare to customers of other accreditors?
Longo: We did not conduct a direct comparison of Joint Commission-accredited home health agencies and home health agencies accredited by other accrediting organizations. The comparison group for our study includes both non-accredited home health agencies and organizations that may be accredited by another accreditation body.
Finish this sentence: “The top strategy that care providers should employ in 2022, to best prepare for 2023, is…”?
Longo: Focus on the structures, systems and processes that support quality and patient safety, performance improvement and link to health outcomes. In doing so, home health agencies may be more likely to see improvement in their quality measures and achieve higher star ratings. This benefits home health agencies, their stakeholders – and most importantly – the patients they serve.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
The team at The Joint Commission offers unmatched resources and learning opportunities for ongoing quality improvement efforts for the duration of the accreditation period. To learn more about why Joint Commission accreditation is right for your organization, visit jointcommission.com.
The Voices Series is a sponsored content program featuring leading executives discussing trends, topics and more shaping their industry in a question-and-answer format. For more information on Voices, please contact [email protected].