Healthcare staffing is a major issue in the nursing home and home healthcare sectors, with healthcare facilities struggling to find enough qualified employees to meet their needs. The struggle has been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, which put an even greater strain on the system. To ease this burden, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) has reduced its accreditation standards for quality measures and healthcare professionals.
How do these revised standards affect nursing homes, home healthcare organizations, and human-centric care? Read on to learn about the potential implications of this deregulation on the healthcare staffing crisis, and whether it could be a viable solution to the problem.
A Deeper Look Into JCAHO Deregulation
The JCAHO is a non-profit organization that works to improve the safety and quality of healthcare services. JCAHO develops standards of care and conducts surveys of healthcare organizations to ensure these standards are met. JCAHO also provides accreditation for organizations that meet its standards. Through its efforts, JCAHO helps to ensure access to safe, high-quality, patient-centric care for millions of Americans.
In December 2022, JCAHO announced that it was freezing accreditation fees to provide financial relief for healthcare organizations still facing significant financial challenges and labor shortages due to the pandemic.
JCAHO also revealed that it was eliminating 168 outdated quality measures and standards — amounting to 14% — and that it would revise another 14 standards across accreditation programs.
The changes went into effect on January 1, 2023.
The changes in standards applied to eight different healthcare sectors:
- Nursing Care Centers: 1 revision, 12 deletions
- Home Care: 1 revision, 10 deletions
- Hospitals: 4 revisions, 56 deletions
- Critical Access Hospitals: 4 revisions, 37 deletions
- Ambulatory Health Care: 1 revision, 20 deletions
- Laboratory Services: 1 revision, 12 deletions
- Behavioral Health Care and Human Services: 1 revision, 9 deletions
- Office-Based Surgery: 1 revision, 18 deletions
Nursing care centers and home care facilities were especially impacted by these regulation changes. Nursing care centers experienced deletions of certain quality measures in life safety (LS), medication management (MM), provision of care, treatment, and services (PC), waived testing (WT), performance improvement chapter (PI), and other segments.
For example, nursing care facilities no longer have to document test results for waived testing in the patient or resident’s clinical record. They are also no longer required to follow a written process addressing the use of investigational medications, which previously included review, approval, supervision, and monitoring.
Home care facilities, on the other hand, saw changes in the environment of care (EC), leadership (LD), MM, PC, WT, and other chapters. For instance, they are no longer required to provide their patients with food and nutrition products tailored to patients’ cultural, religious, and other values. They also no longer have to perform quality control checks for waived testing on each procedure.
The Implications of Deregulation for the Healthcare Industry
Deregulation greatly impacts both healthcare service operators and nursing staff in several key ways.
Healthcare Service Operators and Healthcare Staffing
JCAHO’s deregulation will have a significant impact on healthcare service operators when it comes to staffing problems. You will have more freedom to hire and manage healthcare staff — including nurses, caregivers, and other healthcare professionals— as well as set pay scales and employment terms.
The deregulation also allows for more creativity in recruitment strategies. For example, home healthcare owners may be able to create new nursing and caregiving positions aimed to target entry-level workers who previously didn’t qualify for certain positions. You can also add strategies designed to attract and retain highly qualified, skilled nurses for more complex patient populations.
If you’re a nursing home owner, you may even begin to bring in behavioral health technicians to close the gap in staff shortages, provide quality care, and continue operations.
However, it’s important to note that while there are opportunities associated with this deregulation, there are also risks. You must be aware of potential issues that can arise from freer labor markets, such as:
- Wage competition
- Staff turnover
On the other hand, deregulation could provide a more cost-effective way to manage staffing needs in nursing homes, home health care, and other healthcare facilities, all of which are in great need of additional workers.
Nurses and Caregivers
Accreditation revisions don’t only affect healthcare service organizations. They also directly affect your nurses, caregivers, and other healthcare professionals on the front lines.
The deregulation of accreditation standards means that healthcare professionals no longer have to follow outdated JCAHO guidelines. Instead, they can make decisions about how they handle patient care according to the current state of the healthcare industry and changing patient population.
Improved Patient Care
The deregulation allows healthcare professionals to be more creative and flexible in their patient care. Rather than having to adhere to outdated, strictly defined protocols, they can adjust the process and care plan according to the patient’s needs. This ultimately leads to better outcomes for the patient.
The deregulation of standards also means that healthcare professionals no longer have to monitor themselves to stay in compliance with the old JCAHO regulations. Instead, they can focus more on providing quality care to their patients.
Eliminated Barriers to Entry
Finally, JCAHO’s deregulation helps eliminate barriers to entry for healthcare staff. Standards such as education and licensure are now more lenient, allowing more individuals to qualify for positions. This allows more candidates — including those who may not have been able to obtain the required qualifications for certain jobs in the past — to be eligible for employment opportunities.
The Relationship Between Deregulation and Human-Centric Care
Besides affecting key players such as service operators and healthcare staff, JCAHO’s deregulated standards may have a significant impact on human-centric care in the healthcare industry in several ways.
The deregulation of JCAHO’s standards means that healthcare organizations will no longer be subjected to strict healthcare regulations and rules regarding patient care and nurse accreditation. This grants you more flexibility to design and deliver more personalized and human-centered care to ensure the best possible outcomes for your patients.
Deregulation could also lead to an increase in collaboration between healthcare professionals and community stakeholders. Deregulation reduces red tape associated with accreditation standards. Therefore, you’ll have more resources to dedicate to community partnerships and initiatives that foster better outcomes for patients. This could include everything from developing innovative patient care models to engaging patients and families in the decision-making process.
Successfully Navigating Deregulation
Given the potential risks and benefits associated with this deregulation, you need to develop effective strategies to remain competitive and attract the best talent while managing costs. When navigating the deregulation, consider the following:
- Ensure your existing workforce is up to date. You need to ensure your employees are updated on the revised healthcare regulations, well-trained, and equipped to deal with any increased complexity that may arise from the deregulation.
- Review staff recruiting and retaining processes. You’ll want to review any initiatives you have for recruiting candidates and retaining employees — including pay scales and benefits packages — to ensure your company remains attractive even after deregulation.
- Plan ahead. You should take a proactive approach to planning ahead so you can make smart decisions that help you manage your staffing needs now and into the future.
Combat the Healthcare Staffing Crisis by Leveraging Changes in JCAHO Standards
Ultimately, JCAHO deregulation is a possible solution to the healthcare staffing crisis in many sectors, including nursing homes and home care facilities. The relaxation of certain regulations is likely to reduce administrative burden and create a more relaxed atmosphere for nurses, caregivers, and other healthcare professionals. This allows for more creative solutions for staffing issues and patient care.
While there’s no guarantee that this will completely solve the industry’s staffing issues, it is worth considering as you develop your recruitment and retention strategies. You can enjoy long-term success in the ever-shifting healthcare landscape by creating a cohesive team dedicated to human-centric care and positive patient care outcomes. In this way, deregulation will become a beneficial tool to combat the current healthcare staffing crisis.