As COVID-19 swept the nation, the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) initiated a plan to protect the health and safety of surveyors, correctional employees, and the incarcerated, while continuing its accreditation mission. “Now, more than ever, we want to be able to provide feedback to facilities on the quality of their health care and offer them as much assistance and mentoring as we can,” said Jim Martin, vice president of program development.
In a recent call with other accrediting organizations, NCCHC found it was one of the first to have conducted or planned a virtual survey. NCCHC used a HIPAA-compliant video platform to ensure confidentiality, resolving questions about sharing sensitive health information via the internet. NCCHC found a facility to serve as a pilot site that had supportive leadership and electronic health records. (It is not named to preserve confidentiality.)
Martin and the NCCHC accreditation team then developed new protocols to make sure the rigor of the survey was not compromised, including:
Pre-review of patient records: The facility sent required electronic documentation in advance to the lead surveyor. Before the survey went live on May 11-12, the survey team had already reviewed and assessed on many standards.
Virtual conferencing: While the surveyors anticipated that meetings with the health care team would be accomplished, NCCHC accreditation requires interviews with randomly selected patients. Custody and health care worked together to allow the patients to have private discussions with surveyors over secured phones or tablets.
Pharmacy: Health care staff used a phone to walk through the pharmacy area. Surveyors requested to see randomly selected medications on the shelf and in the refrigerator and the staff was able to get closeups of specific bottles.
Inspection of specific areas: Using phones and laptops, facility staff gave live “tours” of living areas, receiving, screening, and patient care areas. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.