The Joint Commission’s new Rural Health Clinic Accreditation Program, available in summer 2024, has received initial deeming authority from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

The program’s goal is to help organizations in underserved, rural communities improve the safety and quality of primary care and personal health services. It provides a framework to help rural health clinics standardize how care is delivered. The accreditation program is focused on reducing variation and risk to improve patient outcomes.

Rural health clinics that seek Medicare reimbursement must be accredited by an accrediting organization with deeming authority. Rural health clinics eligible for the new accreditation program must meet all state and federal requirements, including location, staffing and healthcare services requirements.

Additionally, rural health clinics must meet the Joint Commission’s standards based on CMS Conditions for Certification for rural health clinics, with additional specific requirements critical to patient safety and quality. The standards focus on these key operational areas:
• Emergency preparedness
• Health information management
• Infection control
• Medical error mitigation
• Medication management
• Patient assessment and care
• Patient rights
• Performance improvement
• Staff competency

“With deeming authority from CMS, the Joint Commission will be able to work with rural health clinics across the country to help them establish a quality and safety framework for the more than 60 million Americans living in rural areas,” said Jonathan B. Perlin, M.D., Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of the Joint Commission enterprise, in a statement. “The new Rural Health Clinic Accreditation Program closely aligns with The Joint Commission’s strategic priority area on healthcare equity for all. All patients deserve access to safe and quality care regardless of their location.”

The Joint Commission notes that 15 percent of Americans live in rural communities. Aside from the distance rural Americans are from healthcare providers, many people suffer from conditions putting their health at risk, such as high blood pressure and obesity. Rural Americans are also more likely to die from heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic lower respiratory disease, and stroke than their urban counterparts.


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