Accreditation update

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Officials at accreditation organizations (AOs) are preparing for a wave of re-surveys that will need to be done in the fall of 2012 and HME providers should be doing the same.

In 2009, when Medicare began requiring that HME providers be accredited, AOs processed stacks and stacks of applications and scrambled to perform surveys. Because most AOs require that providers be re-surveyed every three years, in 2012, many of them will need to be re-surveyed.

"At least this time around we know what we're dealing with, so we can plan for it," said Mary Nicholas, executive director of HQAA, one of Medicare's 10 deemed AOs.

AOs are also preparing for a smaller wave of re-surveys next year. In 2008, Medicare took its first crack at competitive bidding and one of the requirements to participate in the program was accreditation. In 2011, many of the providers that became accredited to submit bids will need to be re-surveyed.

HQAA's preparations include scheduling re-surveys more efficiently. In 2009, that was nearly impossible because the AOs didn't know how many applications they would receive and, in turn, how many surveys they would need to perform, Nicholas said.

"Now we know, in advance, whose accreditation is due and their location," she said.

Some AOs may try to spread out their re-surveys.

"I think some of the accreditors are wondering: 'Can we give some kind of incentive to providers to apply for their re-surveys earlier," said Tom Cesar, president and CEO of ACHC, another deemed AO. "We'll definitely be looking at some kind of plan to encourage providers not to wait until the last minute to schedule their re-surveys, maybe even six or eight months in advance."

Providers can do themselves and the AOs a big favor by keeping up on the requirements for accreditation in between re-surveys.

"If, for example, QI hasn't been maintained, it ends up taking more time for the re-survey," Nicholas said.

Sandy Canally, president of The Compliance Team, a deemed AO that re-surveys its providers every year instead of every three years, says providers often aren't ready for their re-surveys.

"A lot of folks who made it through the deadline said, 'OK, now we can breathe a sigh of relief,' and dropped the ball," she said. "But this isn't a one-and-done deal. They went through this to improve their organization. That's where the focus needs to be placed."