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Articulating The Importance Of Accreditation – A Novel Approach

Have you ever found it challenging to articulate to patients or their families the reasons why they should opt for accredited healthcare facilities?

Often, the general public fails to grasp the true value of accreditation or what it entails. As healthcare professionals, we are aware of cautionary tales from surgical settings where the absence of accreditation has allowed circumstances to go unchecked without rigorous oversight, potentially leading to tragic outcomes - such as cutting corners on sanitation, resulting in infections or preventable anesthesia-related deaths.

Similar circumstances also occur outside of healthcare as safety and quality standards have proven to be ubiquitous in all areas of life. Below are a couple of novel stories that demonstrate this exceptionally well. They shock, they provoke, and most importantly, they stimulate discussions that more familiar healthcare-related stories might not ignite. Patients are typically unaware of oversight’s role in safety. They often place tacit trust in doctors and nurses and hold the belief that healthcare settings are already sufficiently regulated to mitigate preventable risks. These stories illuminate how lapses can occur, even in regulated industries, without the type of oversight accreditation provides.

Insight from the Funeral Home Industry

The first example involves headlines focused on the funeral home industry. In October 2023, the President of the Colorado Funeral Directors Association made it clear that individuals working in funeral homes are not required to hold a special license or possess specific education related to the profession. While many funeral directors hold degrees in mortuary science, Colorado stands out as a state that does not mandate such a requirement. Nonetheless, the state enforces regulations stipulating that within 24 hours of an individual's passing, one of five actions must be taken: embalming, refrigeration, cremation, burial, or donation for scientific purposes.

After a subsequent investigation in Fremont County, Colorado, it was discovered that the Return to Nature Funeral Home had improperly stored 115 bodies. This failure occurred despite the passage of a new law in spring 2023, granting the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies the power to inspect funeral homes– a previous lacking authorization as per the investigation. Lack of oversight resurfaced on February 6, 2024, when a woman's body was discovered to have been improperly stored for two years by the financially troubled owner of a funeral home. In more recent history, owners of a funeral home in Montrose, Colorado, were sent to prison in 2018 for illicitly selling body parts. Moreover, facility owners originating from Oklahoma are currently undergoing trials for 260 felony charges related to the improper storage of 189 bodies at a funeral home in Penrose (source: Goodland M., 'Colorado lawmakers under pressure to regulate funeral industry after urns, body found in Denver home.' Colorado Politics. Feb 20, 2024).

Insight from Animal Care Facilities

The second example delves into the ethical treatment of animals at an aquarium. Located in Littleton, Colorado, this aquarium ceased operations on February 4, 2024, after six years due to numerous citations from regulatory agencies and complaints filed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). This particular aquarium was part of the SeaQuest chain, which has faced similar USDA citations and closures in Connecticut and Georgia. Following the closure, the Denver Zoo intervened and successfully rescued over 100 animals. The Denver Zoo, a nonprofit organization with an expansive 84-acre campus, has proudly held accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums for over four decades.

Lessons for the Healthcare Industry

Referencing examples from industries such as the funeral home and animal care sectors is not merely about drawing parallels; it’s about emphasizing that the need for rigorous standards and third-party oversight is universal, transcending industry boundaries. This underlines a fundamental truth: accountability and quality assurance central to accreditation can mitigate the risk of catastrophic outcomes, regardless of the context.

That said, it is imperative to tie these broader examples back to healthcare to clarify why accreditation is vital, given its direct impact on human life and well-being. Accreditation is a critical tool for validating that healthcare facilities not only abide by the highest standards but also remain committed to continual improvement. As vividly illustrated by these examples, it serves as a safeguard against complacency and negligence that can otherwise infiltrate any operation. Moreover, it provides a framework within which facilities can undergo regular review, fostering dialogue and accountability that cultivates a culture of excellence and safety.

While it is critical to articulate the direct consequences seen in healthcare and office surgery settings lacking accreditation, leveraging these novel stories from other industries enriches and broadens the conversation. It underscores a universal principle: care, respect, and diligence are non-negotiable, reinforcing that accreditation is not merely a bureaucratic checkbox but a foundational element of quality care and safety.

By employing this comprehensive approach, we not only highlight the significance of accreditation in familiar contexts but also enhance the resonance of the message, making it more relatable and compelling across a broader spectrum of situations that impact everyone’s daily lives.


Resources and References:

Aucone, B. (2020, March 31). Accreditation is everything. Denver Zoo. Retrieved March 6, 2024, from https://denverzoo.org/zootales/accreditation-is-everything/

Foster, N. (n.d.). Accreditation: What Boards Need to Know. AHA Trustee Services. Retrieved March 6, 2024, from https://trustees.aha.org/sites/default/files/trustees/accreditation-what-boards-need-to-know.pdf  

Goodland, M. (2024, February 20). Colorado lawmakers under pressure to regulate funeral industry after urns, body found in Denver home. Colorado Politics. Retrieved March 6, 2024, from https://www.coloradopolitics.com/news/colorado-lawmakers-under-pressure-to-regulate-funeral-industry-after-urns-body-found-in-denver-home/article_31703b64-d012-11ee-8f9c-fbb73e05e5e6.html

Sheahan, E. (2023, October 10). What licensing are funeral homes in Colorado required to have? KOAA News 5 Southern Colorado. Retrieved March 6, 2024, from https://www.koaa.com/news/covering-colorado/what-licensing-are-funeral-homes-in-colorado-required-to-have#:~:text=The%20President%20of%20the%20Colorado%20Funeral%20Directors%2C%20Joseph,is%20required%20to%20renew%20their%20license%20every%20year

Young, O. (2024, January 28). SeaQuest Littleton to close following animal welfare concerns. CBS News Colorado. Retrieved March 6, 2024, from https://www.cbsnews.com/colorado/news/seaquest-littleton-to-close-following-animal-welfare-concerns/

(2023, September 19). Denver Zoo Announces AZA Accreditation. Denver Zoo. Retrieved March 6, 2024, from https://denverzoo.org/zootales/denver-zoo-announces-aza-accreditation/

Since 1980, QUAD A (a non-profit, physician founded and led global accreditation organization) has worked with thousands of healthcare facilities to standardize and improve the quality of health care they provide – believing that patient safety should always come first. To learn more about QUAD A, their accreditation process, and why it’s so important to seek out accredited facilities when making healthcare related decisions, visit www.quada.org.