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9/19/2000

Accreditation Starts for Assisted Living Programs

Kate Traynor

Two national organizations have created programs that, for the first time, accredit assisted living facilities.

The Tucson, Ariz.-based Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) launched its program in January, and the Joint Commission of Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), in Oakbrook, Ill., started in June. Standards addressing medication administration, storage, and record keeping and security procedures will affect pharmacists associated with facilities seeking CARF or JCAHO accreditation. 

Organizations already accredited by JCAHO but with an unaccredited assisted living component have until January 2001 to comply with the new standards. Accreditation of assisted living programs by CARF is voluntary, and accreditation of different programs can be pursued independently. 

Established in 1951, JCAHO accredits programs in a wide range of health care settings familiar to pharmacists. CARF was founded in 1966 as an accreditation body for rehabilitation programs and now accredits adult day services, behavioral health programs, and other "life enhancement services." 

Accreditation is achieved through a survey process that evaluates a candidate organization's adherence to published JCAHO or CARF standards. Both organizations' standards seek to identify areas of care that most affect residents of assisted living facilities. The standards also emphasize a continuous need for facilities to reexamine caregiver practices and improve patient care outcomes. 

To remain accredited, JCHAO requires that surveys be conducted at least every three years. CARF accreditation must be renewed every one or three years. 

CARF's Assisted Living Standards Manual, which the organization says will be updated annually, consists of three sections: leadership, information and outcomes management systems, and assisted living services. Supplementary publications designed to prepare institutions for the assisted living accreditation survey are also available from CARF. CARF's Web site provides contact information and an overview of their assisted living facility accreditation program. 

JCAHO's Accreditation Manual for Assisted Living is scheduled for publication in fall 2000. According to the organization, the published manual will have 12 chapters and include "intent" statements that define most standards in detail. The standards, without their intent statements, can be viewed online.