3 ways to advance toward The Joint Commission's new equity certification

Not even one month since it launched a new voluntary Health Care Equity Certification Program, The Joint Commission is seeing vast interest in it and has received multiple applications since its July 1 announcement.

Part of the program's impetus was prompted by new National Patient Safety goals. Launching the voluntary certification now was the right time, Christina Cordero, PhD, a project director who oversees healthcare quality evaluation at The Joint Commission, told Becker's.

"While the new National Patient Safety Goal that was recently implemented on July 1 sets the foundation for organizations to establish standardized structures and processes to detect and address health care disparities, our new advanced certification program in health care equity raises the bar," Dr. Cordero said. "The health care equity certification is intended to recognize hospitals that strive for excellence in their efforts to provide equitable care, treatment and services." 

Though it varies depending on where a hospital or health system may be with equity initiatives, it is estimated that the certification process will take between four and six months. 

Depending on where a system or hospital is regarding its equity efforts, it can choose to focus efforts internally or "on the relationship between health-related social needs and healthcare disparities, while others may be ready to address the history of structural racism in healthcare or the role of implicit bias in care delivery," Dr. Cordero explained. 

There are also specific areas that sometimes get overlooked, which Dr. Cordero says hospitals and health systems may want to pay close attention to that could put them closer toward achieving this new certification at a faster pace including:

  • Ensuring staff training on healthcare equity initiatives is robust prior to the implementation of any changes.

  • Strengthening data collection.

  • Reducing language barriers. 

"For health care equity initiatives to be successful, individuals across the organization first need to understand why improving equitable care for all patients is a quality and safety priority for the hospital," she said. "The other area to pay attention to is data collection. We have long-standing accreditation requirements about the collection of patient race, ethnicity, and preferred language information, and the new certification requirements are an extension of those expectations. Hospitals can build upon their existing processes to ensure that these patient-level data elements are self-reported, incorporate more granular ethnicity categories to better reflect their patient population, and capture the patient’s need for an interpreter as well as document the use of language services."

For systems that are not sure where to start, The Joint Commission has a Health Care Equity Certification Resource Center, which includes several examples of training modules and resources that hospitals can use. 

Certification programs led by The Joint Commission are evaluated during an on-site certification review process in which the applicant hospital or system will be evaluated for compliance with the certification requirements.

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