Obtaining the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care certification is an arduous process. To help ambulatory surgery centers prepare, AAAHC provides a course to assess readiness and compliance. Used with the Standards Manual, the sheer volume of information and the tasks required to achieve certification can be daunting. It is for this reason that many ASCs enlist the help of an outside party to conduct a mock survey. A mock survey is performed to make sure a center is adequately prepared for the survey by identifying areas for improvement and deficiencies.
When starting a new surgery center, it is easy to overlook critical tasks. When Carolina Coast Surgery Center opened in August of 2015, having an outside expert perform a mock survey meant a fresh set of eyes to make sure nothing was missed or done incorrectly. Because Carolina Coast was well prepared, thanks in part to the consultant brought on board, Ann Geier, chief nursing officer at SourceMed Professional Services, the facility achieved AAAHC/Medicare Deemed Status on its first attempt in September of 2015.
To help other new facilities prepare for their first survey, Tammy Andrews, CASC, administrator of Carolina Coast Surgery Center and president-elect of the South Carolina Ambulatory Surgery Center Association shares the following five tips based on her first-hand experience.
• Don't go at it alone. Even if you have been through mock surveys in the past, having someone work with you to make sure nothing is missed is a huge value-add. Furthermore, utilizing an outside party to conduct a mock survey provides a much needed neutral perspective. When you are there living and breathing it every day, it is easy to overlook things. An outside set of eyes will catch things you might not see because you’ve looked at it so long.
• Reputation matters. While there are many people out there eager to conduct a mock survey, they often lack the experience and insight necessary to achieve real accreditation success. A highly experienced surveyor knows what AAAHC will focus on during their survey and what policies and processes must be in place. When considering whom to hire, inquire about the surveyor's background and ask for references. You want someone that has been doing this for a long time yet is current on the current trends and new standards. The person should also be AAAHC trained and accredited.
• Don't assume you are covered. Because policies and requirements change, don't assume things are right; it pays to double check. For example, we were unaware fire safety training was required for our center's physicians. In addition to identifying that our center did not have this training, our consultant, Ms. Geier, provided us with a training template that she uses with other facilities, so we did not have to reinvent the wheel. Having this template in hand allowed training to be completed more quickly and cost effectively, and is just one of the many benefits of having an experienced professional.
• Get a jump start. Just because you hire an outside consultant, there will still be advance preparation required on your end. To help you prepare for a mock survey, a good consultant will provide you with a list of things to look at and tasks that must be done before they arrive; these are also things that will be covered during the actual survey. The consultant is there to ensure processes, procedures and policies are in place as required by AAAHC; it is their job to alert you as to what is missing or out of compliance. Assigning and completing the tasks themselves are your job.
• Don't let things slide. Over time it is easy for centers to become lax and allow things to drop off, especially as you bring new people on board. Periodically utilizing a surveyor to assess your center’s readiness will help keep employees and processes in check. Even if you believe your center is well prepared, it is always nice to receive confirmation that your efforts remain in line with AAAHC expectations.
With the right consultant in place, achieving AAAHC certification can be obtained on the first go-around. Partnering with a highly experienced, AAAHC-certified partner on a mock survey will ensure no policy or task is overlooked, and will allow you to focus on the many other details involved when opening a new ASC.
More articles on accreditation:
10 ASCs achieving accreditation — June 17, 2016
Big Sky Surgery Center earns AAAASF accreditation: 4 points
Atlanta General and Bariatric Surgery Center earns Comprehensive Center accreditation: 5 points