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Benchmark’s Experience with CARF Accreditation: Long Day’s Journey into Enlightenment

As a leading Independent Medical Examiner, Benchmark is committed to meet or exceed standards for quality and service. To this end, we committed to complete the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) accreditation process. The experience was enlightening and we thought we would share it with our community.

What’s CARF?

CARF’s mission is to provide an objective third party certification, indicating that a service provider, such as Benchmark, is committed to continuous quality improvement, accountability for its performance through outcomes evidence, and monitoring the satisfaction of the persons served. Its internationally recognized standards take into account every aspect of the service providers’ business.

CARF goes so far as to provide a template manual (referred to as ‘ASPIRE’), which includes the following sections:

Leadership Strategic Planning
Input From Stakeholders Legal Requirements
Financial Planning and Management Risk Management
Health and Safety Human Resources
Technology Rights of Person Served
Accessibility Performance Outcomes
Performance Improvement

Each section contains subcategories. The service provider must be able to demonstrate compliance/conformance in each of the areas.

Beyond ASPIRE, CARF also has a program specific mandate. In our case, Benchmark had to conform to the Independent Evaluation Services section, which is made up of 36 additional standards.

Real value comes from real work

Benchmark is committed to efficient, standardized processes, as demonstrated by our ISO 9001:2008 registration. However, CARF takes a much broader view, treating the business as a synergistic whole, with a particular emphasis on the person served. For Benchmark, this required a self-audit, which evaluated individual standards to ensure every detail was covered.

Benchmark has been paperless for years and our processes and procedures are mature and thorough. As a result, the self-audit was smooth but laborious. The real challenge was to encapsulate all of our business activities into an easily digestible system of processes that could be validated and measured.

After we were confident everything was in place, we notified CARF of our intent to survey. CARF selected a team from a different province and country with expertise and relevant field experience to perform the accreditation process on-site.

The survey itself went very smoothly. The CARF team reviewed ASPIRE, as well as the program specific criteria, to ensure conformance to all applicable standards.

CARF approached this in a very thorough and practical manner. Rather than just reviewing our documentation, the team observed our employees and their processes, interviewed stakeholders, such as practitioners and insurance adjusters, and met with persons served. Essentially, they wanted to validate all of the written standards by seeing them in action.

CARF also interviewed all of Benchmark’s employees to ensure that they had received the necessary training and were aware of all standards that applied to their roles, pertinent health and safety guidelines, and outcomes that must be collected as part of their workflow process, if applicable.

What does this mean for Benchmark?

After going through the whole process, we collected our observations. CARF is focused on ensuring the implementation of field-driven standards, which are ultimately designed to improve the responsiveness of all programs and services. Further, CARF breaks these standards down into value propositions for each stakeholder category.

All of our processes demonstrated the capability of evolving through continuous improvement based on outcomes and feedback. This was tested for each of our services, with a special emphasis on the person served. In addition, outcomes reporting and management’s ability to demonstrate how information can be actively utilized for continuous improvement of the company were supported.

In summary, it was a very detailed process that involved everybody in the company. We were pleased to find out that we had achieved a 3 year accreditation (becoming only the 15th IME in Canada to do so).

It was very rewarding to receive a third party external validation that our commitment to continuous improvement over the last 10 years has been successful.


Editor’s note:  Sean Cassidy is Vice President, Sales and Marketing for Benchmark Independent Medical Examinations Inc. Benchmark provides professional staff and state-of-the-art customized software to provide a seamless, straightforward, and effective IME experience.


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