The Joint Commission accreditation inspires and reflects excellence at Rivergate Complex
By Heidi Tompkins, Life Care Centers of America Communications Coordinator
Quality is a sometimes-elusive concept every consumer seeks, especially when it comes to health care. Having a third party’s take on an organization can speak volumes about its quality and help individuals make informed decisions.
The Joint Commission is just such a resource.
Formerly known as the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (or JCAHO), The Joint Commission surveys and accredits more than 19,000 health care entities in the United States. It is a non-profit organization governed by professionals from multiple industries – health care, labor and business included.
Businesses such as nursing homes, hospitals, mental health institutions, labs, home care agencies and ambulance services may elect to apply for accreditation. Those that achieve it receive The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval, a nationally recognized symbol.
In Riverview, Mich., two skilled nursing and rehab centers have earned the Gold Seal: Rivergate Terrace and Rivergate Health Care Center. The sister facilities are run by Life Care Centers of America. Together known as Rivergate Complex, they are the only nursing homes in metro Detroit to earn this distinction. Only three percent of nursing homes in Michigan are Joint Commission accredited.
“The accreditation process provides better definition regarding how we operate,” said John Polturanus, senior executive director of the campus. “Most area hospitals are accredited, and through the eyes of the consumer, this distinction sets the standards at a higher level of expectation.”
The reason for the higher expectations? The Joint Commission surveys, or inspections, follow stricter guidelines than state and federal governments require.
A committee of Joint Commission members reviews recommendations from experts and regulatory bodies (such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement). Together, they set the organization’s standards.
The survey begins when a Joint Commission surveyor arrives at the facility unannounced. After meeting with the administration, he or she spends two to three days at the facility, going over a checklist to see that regulations are being followed and interviewing residents and staff members.
“Safety is the backbone of a Joint Commission survey,” shared Kathy Berger, director of Joint Commission Accreditation for Life Care Centers of America. “The surveyors are reviewing systems and processes to make sure we have the safest processes in place. They have a checklist of processes they review such as employee orientation and training, credentialing, emergency management, environment of care, performance improvement, infection control, medication management and others.”
Along the way, it is not uncommon for the surveyor to stop and offer tested-and-tried advice. The Joint Commission as a professional body often recommends processes that have been clinically proven to help patients in similar situations. In turn, surveyors feed the information from their visits back into the organization, where The Joint Commission can use it to improve guidelines for the future.
“Participating in a Joint Commission survey is an opportunity for the associates of the facility to demonstrate many positive outcomes,” Polturanus said, “while allowing the surveyor to provide direction and guidance to improve performance.”
Here in the Downriver area, Rivergate Complex does well.
“During the past and prior surveys, the surveyors always convey how much they enjoy surveying our facilities in regards to the friendliness and positive feel they encounter,” said Polturanus. “Each surveyor is impressed by the dedication and tenure of staff in each building, reflecting on the positive resident and family satisfaction communicated during their interview processes.”
Accreditation, if awarded, is good for three years. After that, facilities must be surveyed again to maintain accreditation. Rivergate Terrace’s last survey accredited it from 2010 – 2013, while Rivergate Health Care’s 2011 survey earned it the Gold Seal through 2014.
Both buildings are committed to striving for that level of excellence and have consistently earned Joint Commission accreditation since they first applied for it more than 14 years ago.
“The associates of our facilities are very proud to work for an organization that does not settle for minimum standards,” Polturanus explained. “It has been communicated many times that our continued quest for excellence is one of the main reasons for selecting Rivergate and Life Care as the employer of choice.”
Life Care Centers of America, the parent company, began an initiative in 1998 to have each of its more than 200 nursing and rehab facilities accredited. Since then, it has achieved 100-percent accreditation among its eligible centers.
Berger summed up the impact of participation: “Complying with The Joint Commission standards prepares our facilities for better state survey results and holds us to a higher standard when caring for our residents.”
That is quality that rests on a solid foundation.