Keeneland Conference Q&A: Carol Moehrle on Public Health Department Accreditation

Apr 20, 2012, 2:30 PM, Posted by NewPublicHealth

CarolMoehrle Carol Moehrle, Public Health Accreditation Board

National Public Health Accreditation launched last fall, and since then 64 local health departments, three tribal health departments and one state department have submitted applications to the National Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB). Carol Moehrle, chair of PHAB and director of public health for the Idaho North Central District, spoke about the accreditation process and benefits during a keynote speech at the Keeneland Conference. NewPublicHealth caught up with Carol Moehrle during the meeting.

NewPublicHealth: Are you pleased with the number of applicants you’ve seen so far?

Carol Moehrle: We are pleased. We knew we’d have some early adopters. And to have 68 complete their applications with the last seven months, that’s a great start. We’ve got a long way ahead, but we also know we have many applicants in the queue waiting to apply. We’re hearing lots of good energy, and departments beginning the process now can look to the earlier applicants for best practices, so applying will be easier as time goes on.

NPH: What is the process and timetable for accreditation application review?

Carol Moehrle: The PHAB staff reviews them for completeness and they’ll be reviewed for accreditation by the site visitors, many of whom were our beta test site visitors. The site visitors have now finished their training and those reviews should start by the summer. We’re making sure that they all have the same bucket of tools they need so that all health departments are treated equally.

NPH: What kinds of questions are you getting from health departments that want to apply for accreditation?

Carol Moehrle: We’ve gotten questions both on the process and on application content, and the fees have generated questions. The monthly PHAB electronic newsletter has a page of recently asked questions that should prove very helpful.

NPH: What answers do you have for departments who worry they will not be able to afford the fees?

Carol Moehrle: We’ve been reminding health departments with that concern that many have carry-over money at the end of a fiscal year that they can use, and that the fees can be spread out over five years. I know the fee has been an issue for some, but I think that once departments realize accreditation is really a culture for QI and performance, then it becomes a critical component of their everyday work.

We’re also hoping that departments may be able to use funds from CDC grant money to pay for the accreditation fee. We don’t know when CDC will decide on that, but they are at the table with us discussing how to make this work for health departments.

NPH: One question during the Q&A at your Keeneland presentation was what to do if the person designated to handle accreditation has now been let go because of budget cuts. Have you had that question before?

Carol Moehrle: Yes, we have and as I said at Keeneland, as with other public health responsibilities that were vested in a person whose job was cut, the most efficient way to handle that would be to spread the responsibility for the application process among several people if possible, to make the process easier to manage.

NPH: In your talk at Keeneland, you said some departments are finding that while they were anxious about the process, once they started it the found that they had some of the work required in process or completed. What have you heard about that?

Carol Moehrle: Yes, we are hearing some of that, that applicants are sometimes saying—aha, we’ve done this report, but perhaps we don’t have an updated version, or maybe our minutes aren’t organized in one place, or not all our policies are signed. Once they begin the process, they see that in organizing the documentation, they may really not have to start everything from scratch.

>>Read an update from Carol Moehrle and others at PHAB on what public health departments can do and where they can find helpful resources to get ready for accreditation.

>>Weigh In: Do you have a question about applying for accreditation?

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.