Multi-Organization Seeking Accreditation as One, Upping the Bar on Integrated Patient Journey

June 10, 2019

Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance (HPHA) is a four-hospital alliance, and it is a leader in terms of providing integrated care. Through consistent, high-quality care, and strong patient partnerships, HPHA strives to provide an integrated patient journey.

In the latest example of this, HPHA, along with the Alzheimer Society of Huron County, Alzheimer Society of Perth County, Clinton Family Health Team, North Perth Family Health Team, Knollcrest Lodge, and Ritz Lutheran Villa/Mitchell Nursing Home will present as one for their upcoming Accreditation Survey.

Andrew Williams, CEO of Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance
Andrew Williams, CEO of Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance

In an interview with Accreditation Canada (AC), Andrew Williams, CEO of HPHA, said that HPHA wanted to approach the accreditation process with the intention to leverage standards to harmonize practices, protocols and procedures across different sectors.

“We’re the first organization in Ontario looking at a model like this, where we are taking separately governed organizations through the same [accreditation] survey. The survey team will not look at us as seven distinct organizations, it’ll be one,” Williams says.

The CEO explains that when patients and clients move back and forth through a multitude of organizations, consistency is key.

“The more that we are providing consistent care, the more our philosophies align, the better the care experience is going to be overall.”

Cathy Ritsema, Executive Director at the Alzheimer Society of Huron County, explains how this first-time accreditation experience has allowed their organization to expand their proficiencies as governors and staff:

“The insight and collective knowledge of the HPHA accreditation team has enabled a fuller understanding of the whole health care practice. I believe that accreditation drives quality. This collaborative prototype has led to progressive outcomes for the partners as we forge a new path together.”

Williams notes that though pooling resources will be enriching for all partners, an accreditation process across different sectors is not without its challenges.

“For some of our partners, this is the first time they have undergone an accreditation survey. As such, there are varying levels of comfort with the standards, and different levels of awareness of the tools and processes available,” he says.

Williams adds that different accountabilities provincially, and the variation in oversight require specific attention and discussion.

The HPHA CEO says however that for this integrated accreditation survey, the rewards will far outweigh the efforts. He notes that this integrated model will benefit the patients, residents and clients, the most.

“Ideally, the patient journey is shorter. It’s more coordinated. It’s easier to understand. In other words, it’s wrapped around the person, regardless of where they are, and it’s built through the eyes of those who use the system,” Williams says.

The CEO shares why this collaborative accreditation model fosters quality improvement on many levels.

“We all have pockets of excellence and we can all learn from one another,” he says.

Jeff Renaud, Administrator at Ritz Lutheran Villa, believes each member of this sub-region accreditation recognizes the value of sharing best practices in health care delivery.

“With the wide variety of skills and experience within the group, accreditation becomes a better learning experience because you are not doing the heavy lifting in isolation! It is a great way to share ideas for our mutual benefit and ultimate success.”

Despite the effort to coordinate seven organizations and get them all ready to be surveyed, Williams says that all partners believe in the integrated care accreditation model, and in providing an integrated patient journey from start to finish.

“Each player has an equal role in the success of what we’re trying to accomplish and we’re supporting one another as we go through this,” he said.  “The outcome will more than justify the work, as not only will it facilitate standardization across sectors, it will also strengthen care transitions in the system. It is this later point that is one of the main frustrations with our existing system locally, provincially and right across this country.”

Kimberly Van Wyk, Executive Director of Clinton Family Health Team notes:

“Working together has provided benefit through working groups on governance, medication management, infection control and others. We have been able to share best practices, policies and work processes. We are building trust and partnerships through our work for accreditation. It has been a great experience so far.”

Williams says he hopes these efforts will spark a trend in Ontario health care.

“The future of surveying [in Ontario] should align with this prototype. Instead of individual organizations being assessed, we should survey across the system to make sure that regardless of where people are in their care journey, the standards are consistent, the practices are the same, the policies are appropriate,” he said. “With the establishment of Ontario Health Teams, where different sectors will be brought under a single accountability structure, this approach is even more of an opportunity.”

Williams is no stranger to Accreditation Surveys, having been a surveyor for AC for the past 18 years.

“I’m a huge personal advocate of accreditation as it causes all of us to step back from our day-to-day work life and to look at our organizations through the lens of nationally vetted standards that are built on safety and quality improvement.”

He believes that organizations like Accreditation Canada set the bar for strengthening quality and improving safety.

“If you look at a lot of the things we do today in health care, whether it’s medication reconciliation, anti-microbial stewardship, workplace violence prevention, a lot of these initiatives have advanced to the degree they have because they are identified by Accreditation Canada as priority areas of focus. As such, a number of the best practices we have in our health care system are driven by organizations like Accreditation Canada.”

What advice would Williams offer an organization considering this type of group accreditation?

“I’d say for someone who is truly interested in system integration, using resources like Accreditation Canada really helps to move us along this journey quickly and responsibly, and ultimately in a way that’s going to help us to strengthen the system for everybody.”

HPHA’s leadership doesn’t stop with the integrated care accreditation model. Williams adds that HPHA is also paving the way in terms of patient partnerships.

“Our organization has a very strong patient partner program, and we are being profiled by the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement as one of two organizations in the country – due to our involvement of patient partners in decision-making in the organization.”

Williams shares how valuable a patient’s perspective is in providing integrated care and offering that integrated journey.

“We assume as health care providers, that we know a lot of the answers and we certainly do, but until you talk to the person who is actually receiving the care, you can’t be assured that you are meeting their specific needs.”

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