with Dr. Anthony Stanowski
President and CEO
Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management
As our communities increase calls for accountability, higher education accreditation has more visibility than ever before. Thoughtfully deciding what standards indicate the quality of institutions and programs so that students, families, government officials, and employers know and believe in the quality of that education is a significant and important undertaking. Accreditation strives to be a trusted designation that is sought by schools, students, and employers.
The work doesn’t end there, however. Eliminating barriers to seeing the value of accreditation begins with meaningful standards, but also includes the process for demonstrating achievement of them.
The Challenge: Accreditation Fatigue
In addition to the considerable task of determining what makes a quality institution or program, accreditors must also take on managing standards, institution members, and reviewers. The sheer amount of documentation, tracking, and communication required can take enormous amounts of time. Thankfully the process has moved on from paper documents. As electronic communication improves, institutions use word processing tools and cloud storage. Most recently, several management platforms have emerged. While technology has certainly helped solve many accreditation process challenges, several still remain.
Preventing schools from feeling accreditation is “jumping through hoops” can be accomplished by designing meaningful standards, but just as important is the accreditation process experience itself.
Typical challenges during an accreditation process:
- Inconsistency: Some narrative submission formats inadvertently allow institutions to combine sections, or even miss them altogether. Allowing for variety in linking evidence (a shared drive, website, etc.) can be very dependent on a school’s resources. These inconsistencies can be not only confusing to a reviewer, but could result in varying approaches to evaluation.
- Rigidity: On the other hand, having a system that is not flexible enough to meet the needs of the accreditor (branding, custom fields and instructions, report parameters) limits the institution’s ability to present how they fulfill their mission and meet requirements.
- Navigation: When institutions can design how their report and evidence is presented, it requires a reviewer to learn a new structure each time. This can be a bad experience and waste valuable time.
- Formatting: Most accreditors provide guidelines for font, headings, title pages, appendices, etc. Non-standardized submission methods often cause institutions and reviewers to spend inordinate amounts of time on these tedious aspects of reports.
- Monitoring Progress: If the submission process does not include milestones, due dates, and notifications, institutions can easily fall behind. Similarly, if no alerts exist the accreditor cannot know there’s a problem until it’s too late.
- Communicating/Collaborating: Working on narrative drafts and compiling potential pieces of evidence is challenging when the main method of communication is only email, as opposed to collaboration in one shared space. This is also true for the reviewer feedback loop to schools.
- Updates to Standards: When an accreditor needs to make updates or changes to standards, locating all the various places these need to be made and announced takes a lot of time and effort.
- Inefficient: Many submission processes that are not in a standardized platform take much more time for both the institution and reviewer, which increases costs. Additionally, storage of documents and evidence, often in multiple places, can be frustrating and expensive.
Accreditors and their member schools have the same goal – presenting to stakeholders how they fulfill their unique mission. However, many aspects of current processes are tedious and inefficient, resulting in fatigue and an end product that isn’t as useful as it could be. Weave sat down with Dr. Anthony Stanowski, President and CEO of Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management (CAHME), to find out how they are eliminating accreditation fatigue.
The Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education was founded in 1968, with the goal of advancing the quality of healthcare management education. With the participation of leading academics and senior executives, CAHME sets the standards to help ensure that students are better prepared to lead in healthcare. There are currently 139 CAHME accredited programs.
The board realized their programs were experiencing accreditation fatigue over a decade ago, and knew they wanted to relieve some of the tedious burden by using an accreditation platform. The product had not advanced as technology improved, and CAHME recognized that they could do better. After investigating several platforms knowing what was needed to make the process, they selected Weave.
The Solution: Find a Partner to Streamline Process + Add Value
CAHME learned a lot over the years they used an accreditation platform, and knew what they needed to focus on when looking for a new one. Anthony shared that as they explored options and conversed with different providers, there were four areas where Weave was going to be the perfect fit for them.
Even more important than software features is how well your organizations match culturally. CAHME felt that a software “designed for educators by educators” would truly understand their goal – supporting their members and reviewers through an easier process to demonstrate excellence. Finding a partner that not only understands your field, but also has extensive knowledge from both your and schools’ perspective, results in a trust that would be hard to come by otherwise.
“Look, we can’t change the culture of a partner. Instead, we searched, and found, a company that understands the nuances of the academic space because that is where they are from. We saw that their culture would be the foundation for future innovation.” Dr. Anthony Stanowski, President and CEO of CAHME
A solid vision provides for the type of customers a business wants to serve and specifically what they want to solve for those customers. Anthony appreciated that Weave was clearly focused on providing a service for accreditors, not just institutions, with a long term goal of collaboration between accreditors and accreditors, accreditors and schools, and accreditors and accreditation organizations. Streamlining processes for all involved removes distraction from the true point of accreditation – schools telling their unique story of mission fulfillment and student learning.
“I want a partner knowledgeable enough to tell US what we need to be asking, and make it all work quicker, faster, better.” Dr. Anthony Stanowski, President and CEO of CAHME
Anthony points out that the cultural fit and vision often translate into the kind of service you can expect. Experience working with accreditors and schools can be invaluable in this instance, as familiarity with terminology and procedures streamlines onboarding and any support tickets. Additionally, understanding the uniqueness of accreditation to provide customized resources for the accreditor, members, and reviewers truly supports the goal of eliminating accreditation fatigue. And of course, the level of responsiveness and assistance provided at no extra cost are critical as well.
“The amount of customization in our implementation and onboarding was a pleasant surprise. It didn’t necessarily relate to the process of accreditation, but to helping programs get through the actual steps of the process more easily by including detailed information about our site visitors, or potentially incorporating videos, FAQs, and bulletins. These were resources I had not even envisioned, but the Weave team said ‘Hey, we can help with this,’ and it has made a big difference.” Dr. Anthony Stanowski, President and CEO of CAHME
To reduce accreditation fatigue, a platform’s interface, usability, and navigation are key. System administrators should be able to set up new users quickly and with little training; schools should be able to collaborate on narrative and evidence alignment in an intuitive space; reviewers and accreditors should have visibility into the progress and a mechanism for useful feedback; reports should be easy to run and use.
Ideally a solution will be customizable but also already well-designed for the intended purpose – flexible enough to accommodate unique needs (number of fields and names, terminology, etc.) but also not so customizable it feels like starting from scratch. Finally, it can be useful to get an understanding of how a provider researches, designs, and releases enhancements.
“Don’t get distracted by the bells and whistles and fancy things that some programs can do. Focus on solid, secure technology that meets your needs and that will grow to support them even more in the future.” Dr. Anthony Stanowski, President and CEO of CAHME
The Results: Increased Satisfaction = Value
Most accreditors have two audiences: the institution or program, and the volunteer reviewers and site visitors. It is imperative to meet the needs of both. Designing fair, meaningful standards that stakeholders aspire to is one important way to meet those needs and add value. However, the process of demonstrating and evaluating proficiency in those areas must be smooth, or it can impact the value of seeking accreditation.
Like any good assessment process, CAHME has recorded satisfaction since switching tools, and also compiled anecdotal evidence. They have been pleased to see and hear how streamlining the process increased satisfaction and reduced accreditation fatigue, allowing stakeholders to focus on the content in the reports and not the challenges in generating them.
“I think the biggest benefits that our programs have seen has been ease of use and flexibility in the tool. And what we’ve seen with Weave has been an increase in the satisfaction of our programs and site visitors.” Dr. Anthony Stanowski, President and CEO of CAHME
Anthony’s top three tips for searching for and implementing a system:
Do not do an RFP. Not only are they time consuming for everyone, it is unlikely that the scores will truly find the best fit for you. Instead, focus your conversations on culture, vision, service, and technology.
Plan for transition. If you have another platform, run them concurrently for a time to make sure all users are comfortable. Be ready for some negativity, but if you’ve chosen the right tool and it makes life easier, that won’t last.
Use success to build on new ideas. Once you have had some success with a new tool, use that as collateral for change and improvements.
“Once we cut down on accreditation fatigue and it becomes more of a function of ensuring programs meet the criteria and standards, it becomes far less intensive on their part in terms of the administrative functions they’ve got to do. This kind of process helps enable CAHME to be “table stakes” to our programs. CAHME should add value to programs, enable them to succeed, and ensure the future leadership of healthcare.” Dr. Anthony Stanowski, President and CEO of CAHME
Dr. Stanowski talks about this and other topics in his recent podcast episode with us on Accreditation Conversations: Behind Enemy Lines: Understanding Programmatic Accreditation.