A new certification option from The Joint Commission is focused on helping health care organizations improve care coordination across the continuum of care, beginning with hospital and ambulatory care settings.

The new Integrated Care Certification option assesses how well a health care organization integrates information sharing, transitions of care, hand-off communications and other key activities as a patient moves between the hospital and outpatient care settings. With a focus on leadership, clinical integration, patient and family engagement and other areas, this new certification is the starting point for improving patient outcomes with better-coordinated care.

The standards are designed to be flexible to accommodate different system types, from large hospital systems with multiple campuses to small independent hospitals and from small primary care practices to large multispecialty groups. The Integrated Care Certification requirements will help organizations develop a foundation for using data to identify their risk points and then determine ways to better manage those risks. The goal of the certification is to improve transitions in care and management of complex conditions, such as cancer, that require integration of inpatient and ambulatory care.

“This certification solidifies the links between health care settings and provides a pathway for leaders to improve patient satisfaction, decrease readmissions and reduce emergency department use,” said David W. Baker, MD, MPH, FACP, executive vice president, Division of Health Care Quality Evaluation, The Joint Commission.

In order to be eligible for the certification, at least one component of the health care system, such as the ambulatory care or hospital services, must be accredited by The Joint Commission. The certification period is for three years, and organizations are evaluated by reviewers who specialize in integrated care. This certification is separate from the accreditation process and does not affect the accreditation status of an organization.

The goal is to eventually develop the Integrated Care Certification program to assess organizations as a full delivery system and evaluate the integration of care across the care continuum beyond ambulatory to include settings such as skilled nursing facilities, home care, long-term care, and behavioral health care.

The new certification standards for Integrated Care are available in E-dition format on a complimentary trial basis for organizations that are considering applying for certification.

For information or to request a copy of the trial standards, email qualityhospitals@jointcommission.org.