JCAHO accreditation open to critical access hospitals

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced recently the granting of deeming authority for critical access hospitals to the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, meaning these hospitals will be considered to have met Medicare certification requirements once the Joint Commission accredits them.

CMS found that Joint Commission standards for critical access hospitals meet or exceed those established by the Medicare program.

Critical access hospitals provide essential services to patients seeking care in underserved communities. Accreditation remains voluntary, and seeking deemed status through accreditation is an option, not a requirement for Medicare certification. The Joint Commission has had deeming authority for acute-care hospitals since the inception of the Medicare program in the 1965.

The Joint Commission launched its accreditation program for critical access hospitals late in 2001.

Critical access hospitals, as outlined in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, provide limited but vital health services to rural communities. These facilities — which must have a patient census of less than 25 — are certified by the Department of Health and Human Services as eligible for cost-based reimbursement from the Medicare program.

More than 600 hospitals across the country already have converted to critical access hospital status; another 500 hospitals may be eligible for this designation.

Critical access hospitals are surveyed for compliance with Joint Commission standards that specifically have been adapted to the special services offered by these organizations. The Joint Commission also has developed a streamlined survey process for assessing compliance with the standards.

In addition to critical access hospitals and acute-care hospitals, deemed status options are available to Joint Commission-accredited home health agencies, hospices, clinical laboratories, ambulatory surgery centers, and Medicare+Choice HMOs and preferred providers organizations.