Accreditation Journey Leads to Better Documentation and Transparency at Cascade City County Health Department
By Melanie McKinzie Swartz
For Cascade City-County Health Department (CCHD), the most impactful area of change due to going through the accreditation process has been the comparison/use of the PHAB Standards and Measures to identify the strengths and weaknesses of our agency.
As CCHD began the document submission process, strengths and weaknesses became quickly evident through the process of self-assessment against the standards and measures. Feedback during the site visit and hearing from outside sources with expertise and knowledge provided affirmation that our health department was doing some things very well, but included acknowledgement of room for growth. The site visit helped our agency look at detailed pieces of our day-to-day operations. One specific change that came from the site visit and report was the development of a quality improvement (QI) team and formalization of the QI plan. Another major change was the formalization of documentation across the board, not just for the sake of accreditation, but for measurement, transparency, and the benefit of the organization.
Documentation impacts our funding, shows our data, and is evidence of the valuable work we do at the health department. Formalizing our documentation process allowed us to back-up/prove what we were saying for years and provide evidence to our staff, stakeholders, and our community. Another specific change was looking at the administrative processes in place that we took for granted. The accreditation process made us look internally and realize the need to have protocols and procedures for consistency and quality.
As we worked through the accreditation process, we became impressed with our areas of strengths and proud of our accomplishments. One place we were doing well was within our regulatory programs like communicable disease, restaurant inspections, and PHEP. Being a small health department, we rely on the state and neighboring counties and partners to carry out our work. We effectively administer these programs through these collaborative relationships. The sense of accomplishment of what we do well gave the agency the knowledge, opportunity, awareness, and drive to identify and evaluate our weaknesses more critically along with the motivation to improve areas of weakness and tools necessary to be effective.
Cascade City-County Health Department in Great Falls, Montana, was awarded national accreditation through the Public Health Accreditation Board on February 20, 2018.
About the author: Melanie McKinzie Swartz is Office and Accreditation Coordinator at Cascade City-County Health Department in Great Falls, Montana. Contact her at [email protected].