Commitment to Ongoing Improvement, Strong Staff Engagement Keys to Accreditation Success: The Ottawa Hospital

June 19, 2017

On May 31, 2017, the Ottawa Hospital (TOH) issued a press release to announce that it had received the highest rating possible from Accreditation Canada (AC) – Accredited with Exemplary Standing. The hospital is the largest organization in Canada to receive that award, a cause for celebration, according to officials.

“It’s been an amazing process and it’s really because we took a different approach this time,” says Samantha Hamilton, Director of Quality and Patient Safety at TOH.

Instead of focusing on a particular standing, TOH focused on engaging its staff and celebrating the hospital’s successes. In the year leading up to the survey, TOH staff were not informed about the different accreditation levels awarded by AC.

“We did not aim for Exemplary Standing. We approached the survey from a continuous quality improvement approach. We were looking to improve our quality of care through the process of getting ready for accreditation,” Hamilton says.

She says TOH saw the rigorous survey process as a chance to share their work and the passion for what they do with surveyors from across Canada.

“It was an opportunity to show these people why it’s so special to work at TOH and why it’s special to be a patient or a family member here,” Hamilton said.

She adds that as celebrating success was TOH’s common theme throughout the survey process, staff were more engaged in learning, improving and working towards the organization’s long-term goals. “[This focus] connected people by their hearts,” Hamilton says. “They were committed and they cared.”

Hamilton notes that the accreditation process is valuable to any organization, as it provides an independent, objective assessment of the quality of care that is being offered. TOH’s recent accreditation survey follows on one conducted in 2013.

If an organization is accredited, Hamilton says this fact helps to reassure patients and their families. She adds that TOH’s Exemplary Standing has also improved staff morale.

“It’s provided them with a stronger sense of pride.”

Hamilton says that throughout the accreditation process, TOH found a lot of value in the standards. She notes that as AC’s standards – now being developed by AC’s affiliate Health Standards Organization (HSO) – are comprehensive and well-developed, an organization can expect “a solid, external assurance” that the care they are providing is of good quality.

Accreditation, Hamilton says, adds value to the care and services being offered.

“It enhances the rigour and the quality of the care and services by sheer virtue of the content, extent and breadth of the standards.”

Hamilton says, however, that to be successful in the accreditation process, an organization’s staff must be committed to quality improvement. She notes that there is a strong connection between staff engagement and quality outcomes.

“You cannot have great quality outcomes without staff commitment,” Hamilton said. “It’s maybe the best kept secret.”