Accreditation helps organizations address issues as they come up for an ultimate level of quality and safety, even in COVID pandemic: SHA

March 30, 2021

“Everyone in the organization understands that accreditation is important work, even during a pandemic. It would have been easier to say ‘no.’ From this experience, we’ve learned that we’ve been successful in addressing issues as they come up, for that ultimate level of quality and safety in these challenging times,” says Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA).

Accreditation readiness keeps quality care and patient safety “front and centre,” even during COVID-19, says Stacey Smith Coleman, SHA’s Accreditation Director. Smith Coleman notes the organization was determined to proceed with its accreditation process. “Overall, SHA has prioritized accreditation as one of our key improvement initiatives and this was no less important, even if we were in a pandemic,” she says.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Accreditation Canada (AC) pivoted to offering surveys utilizing virtual and on-site assessment approaches to help clients continue their accreditation work. Given the unique circumstances, SHA and AC agreed to pilot an enhanced virtual survey approach in December 2020 with the opportunity to review an on-site visit tentatively scheduled for June 2021, pending the status of provincial pandemic restrictions.

Smith Coleman notes that despite COVID-19, SHA worked with 23 of its sites across Saskatchewan to prepare for this initial, virtual part of their accreditation survey from Dec. 6 to 11, 2020. “It was challenging because we were trying to use technology to be able to connect surveyors with staff and patients, and to really replicate the on-site visit to the best of our ability,” says Smith Coleman. “The desire was really to move forward wherever possible, even in the pandemic.”

She adds that SHA had to work harder to bring its teams together in new, innovative ways. “We were bringing our Patient and Family Advisors in by Webex,” Smith Coleman says. “We were using all of our virtual tools and digital technology to bring people together and to show surveyors around.”

Smith Coleman notes that in general, the value of the accreditation process is that it ensures constant attention is placed on meeting national standards for quality care and patient safety. “During COVID-19, we were trying to balance the safety of our clients, residents, patients and staff with our need to progress our accreditation journey.”

She adds that another important aspect was assuring frontline SHA staff members that accreditation and meeting standards is already something they are doing in their daily work. “Accreditation is not something that is extra or something people need to be fearful of, it’s value added,” Smith Coleman says.

Smith Coleman notes the organization is proud of how quickly everyone could be accreditation ready, despite the ongoing pandemic. “In this process, teams learned that to get them up to speed on standards and to identify gaps, we were able to prepare them quickly,” she says. “We were able to gather improvement plans quickly and to also, action those improvements quickly.”

Additionally, Smith Coleman says SHA was pleased to have an AC Patient Surveyor on its virtual survey team, as this allows the organization to better evaluate its care and services from a patient and family lens. “The Patient Surveyor has the primary focus of what matters to patients and families,” she says. “It’s nice to have that specific lens pulled out separately, because it’s not just about meeting clinical and administrative requirements, it’s thinking about how to improve our care from a patient and family perspective.”

Smith Coleman notes that a valuable thing SHA learned from this pandemic survey experience is that it is able to adapt quickly, even in a crisis situation as high-quality care and safety are part of its daily work. “From this experience, we’ve learned that if issues come up, we’ve been successful in addressing them for that ultimate level of quality and safety.”

Do you want to help your organization move forward with its own quality improvement journey? Learn more about AC’s accreditation programs here.