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Medicare approves new hospital accreditation organization

The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced last week its approval of the first new hospital accreditation organization in more than 30 years.

The decision allows DNV Healthcare Inc., a division of the Norwegian company Det Norske Veritas, to immediately begin determining if hospitals are in compliance with the Medicare Conditions of Participation.

DNV joins the Joint Commission and the American Osteopathic Association as the only national hospital accreditors approved by CMS. The company's authority to accredit hospitals will run through September 26, 2012.

As part of the CMS approval process, DNV's accreditation program - called NIAHO - was implemented in multiple hospitals across the country and demonstrated its effectiveness to U.S. healthcare officials.

NIAHO is the acronym for National Integrated Accreditation for Healthcare Organizations. To date, 22 U.S. hospitals have been accredited by NIAHO.

"The entire market has reached a turning point," said Yehuda Dror, president of DNV Healthcare. "Now hospitals can choose to integrate proven quality systems into an annual accreditation process that is less complicated to administer. Based on its design and feedback from DNV's currently accredited hospitals, we believe NIAHO will have a positive and measurable impact on patient safety, financial performance and the overall quality of healthcare services."

DNV's NIAHO program is the first hospital accreditation program in the United States that integrates the internationally recognized ISO 9001 Quality Management System with the Medicare Conditions of Participation. DNV officials claim it is the only hospital accreditation program that requires continual quality improvement.

Atrium Medical Center, a 300-bed regional hospital in southwestern Ohio, was one of the first hospitals to deploy the DNV NIAHO program.

"We wanted an accreditation program that could help us take our quality programs to the next level," said Robyn Myers, director of quality and accreditation for Atrium Medical Center. "DNV NIAHO looks at every area of the hospital, not just clinical services. It's a much more comprehensive approach."

Next year Atrium will complete a hospital-wide transition to electronic health records. Myers said that was another reason the hospital is pleased with NIAHO.

"We've had prior experience with ISO 9001 and it makes a big difference. It creates consistency and structure throughout our entire organization," said Myers. "ISO is actually helping us make the switch to electronic records. We have better control of our business processes and that allows us to adapt more quickly to changes in CMS quality measures."

Dror said that, as part of its NIAHO program development, DNV has cultivated field surveyors throughout the country. Working in teams comprised of clinicians, generalists and life safety specialists, DNV surveyors will visit hospitals annually to help hospitals meet their quality goals.

All DNV surveyors have been cross-trained as ISO 9001 lead auditors, which Dror said made them "unique in the industry."

"It's not just their surveying skills, it's their collaborative approach that makes the difference," said Dror. "Accreditation surveys in the past have become somewhat combative. They don't have to be. We believe accreditation should be treated like a true service, not a confrontation. We have shown that surveyors can be collaborative and still hold hospitals accountable. We are very confident that hospitals will find DNV accreditation teams to be a dramatic and welcomed change from what they're used to."

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