March 21, 2024

CARF Accreditation: What It Is and How It Could Benefit Your Behavioral Health Facility

CARF Accreditation: What It Is and How It Could Benefit Your Behavioral Health Facility

You want clients to choose your behavioral health facility, and you want to offer them the best care possible. 

When potential clients or their families search for treatment options, one of their first stops is to search online. 

What can you do to help your facility stand out? How do you convey a commitment to excellence within seconds of users visiting your homepage? 

Featuring a distinguished accreditation, such as the CARF accreditation, prominently showcased on your website shows prospective clients your commitment to an elevated standard of care. 

Learn more about CARF International, how the accreditation process can impact your facility, and what it takes to become CARF-accredited. 

Table of Contents

What Is CARF Accreditation?

CARF International, founded in 1966, is one of two main nonprofit accreditation bodies (the other being The Joint Commission) that treatment centers can obtain. 

CARF works with health and human services in the areas of:

  • Behavioral health
  • Opioid treatment programs 
  • Aging services
  • Child and youth services
  • Employment and community services 
  • Medical and vision rehabilitation services 

There are currently more than 65,000 programs and services at over 30,000 CARF-accredited locations. The accreditation extends to countries in North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Oceania.

What Does CARF Accreditation Stand For?

CARF stands for Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities.

What Is CARF’s Mission?

The mission of CARF is “to promote the quality, value, and optimal outcomes of services through a consultative accreditation process and continuous improvement services that center on enhancing the lives of persons served.”

Through the accreditation process, CARF International assists service providers in: 

  • Improving the quality of their services 
  • Demonstrating value; and 
  • Meeting internationally recognized organizational and program standards

CARF International aims to provide a common rubric for treatment centers to ensure they are providing a certain level of care.

How Does CARF Accreditation Differ From The Joint Commission?

Both accreditations are highly valued and can help your program stand out. 

One of the most significant differences is that The Joint Commission accredits the entire organization’s programs at once, while CARF allows you to have programs accredited one (or more) at a time. 

Ritten’s behavioral health EMR software is compliant with both CARF and The Joint Commission. Ritten offers a modern approach to EMR systems, offering providers an intuitive and flexible way to manage workflows. 

This makes it easier to adjust to any changes required during the CARF accreditation process, plus their software is built using CARF- and Joint Commission-compliant form builders. 

Why Is CARF Accreditation Important?

When a facility seeks compliance with CARF standards, benefits can be realized by both the facility and the clients it serves.

Accreditation is a sign of quality. It ensures facilities are providing clients with care that meets globally recognized standards and establishes accountability to funding sources.

CARF Accreditation Offers a “Seal of Approval” 

CARF accreditation signifies that a facility or program is committed to:

CARF accreditation standards are high, and the process to become compliant can be rigorous. Since CARF is a voluntary process, it means that a service provider has taken the extra steps necessary to earn the “seal of approval.”

CARF Accreditation May Lead To Higher Treatment Reimbursements Rates 

Meeting CARF accreditation standards demonstrates to your funding sources that you’re committed to enhancing performance and managing risk.

When negotiating with payers, you can sometimes negotiate a higher rate if your facility is CARF-accredited. 

6 Steps To Becoming CARF Accredited

The CARF accreditation process requires internal audits and on-site surveys. This process can last about 12 months or longer for first-time applicants, with over 1,500 standards to meet.

Here is a breakdown of the steps to becoming CARF accredited.

#1: Internal Audit

After an initial consultation with a designated CARF resource specialist, you’ll begin the process with a thorough self-evaluation measuring the CARF accreditation standards against your facility’s practices. 

This process can last up to one year before the on-site survey begins. Your resource specialist will be available to offer guidance and technical assistance during the entire CARF accreditation process. 

#2: Survey Application 

Once your facility is in conformance with the standards, an application for a CARF on-site survey can be submitted. It should be submitted at least three full months in advance of the desired date for an on-site survey. It is expected that by the date of the survey, the provider will have been in conformance with the standards for at least six months.

The survey application includes detailed information about the location, leadership, programs, and services that you are seeking accreditation for.

You’ll then pay the CARF survey fee, which is based on the number of surveyors and days needed to complete the survey. 

#3: On-Site Survey 

CARF International selects the survey team by matching the program or administrative expertise and relevant field experience with the service provider’s needs.

During the on-site survey, the surveyors follow a consultative approach rather than acting as inspectors.

During the survey, the team may:

  • Interview staff
  • Interview clients and their families 
  • Interview stakeholders 
  • Observe organizational practices
  • Review appropriate documentation 
  • Answer questions
  • Provide consultation 

#4: Decision and Written Report 

Roughly six to eight weeks after the survey step is complete, CARF reviews the survey findings.

CARF delivers a report that identifies:

  1. The service provider's strengths 
  2. Areas for improvement; and 
  3. Its level of demonstrated conformance to the standards

CARF also renders one of the following accreditation decisions:

  • Three-Year Accreditation
  • One-Year Accreditation
  • Provisional Accreditation
  • Nonaccreditation 

#5: Facility Makes Changes Based on Feedback

As an accreditation condition, an initial Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) must be submitted within 90 days following notification of the accreditation outcome. The QIP will outline actions that have been or will be taken based on the areas for improvement outlined in the report.  

Having an EMR system with the flexibility to change your templates based on feedback from the CARF surveyors can help this process run faster and smoother. You want an EMR system with the experience and a proven track record for passing these kinds of audits and surveys, along with the flexibility to accommodate new changes. 

Ritten’s behavioral health EMR software is designed to give you control of your forms ensuring you meet both your accreditation and state licensing requirements. 

#6: Maintain CARF Accreditation

CARF International stays in contact with the service provider during the accreditation term and encourages service providers to contact them as needed to maintain conformance to the standards. 

CARF will send an Annual Conformance to Quality Report (ACQR) around 10 weeks before the accreditation anniversary each year. 

The signed ACQR is submitted to CARF on the accreditation anniversary date by the service provider. Along with this form, you’ll also need to submit an annual QIP with any changes or updates. 

CARF regularly offers networking and educational opportunities to assist providers with continuous quality improvement in preparation for resurvey at the end of the accreditation tenure.

Ritten: Supporting CARF Accreditation Requirements With a Trusted and Flexible EMR System 

Addiction and mental health treatment facilities seeking CARF accreditation want to become and remain a place of excellence for their clients. 

Becoming CARF-accredited can be tedious and take years to complete. A trusted EMR system may prove invaluable before, during, and after accreditation. 

Ritten’s EMR software for behavioral health makes it easy to manage and maintain: 

  • Documentation 
  • Complex schedules 
  • Client progress tracking
  • Compliance with CARF and The Joint Commission
  • And more

When you’re seeking CARF accreditation, you need a flexible EMR system that can help streamline the process of conducting an internal audit, having all your documentation surveyed, and making required changes. Ritten’s modern, data-driven approach to behavioral health EMR needs can help simplify this tedious process with features that work together.

Learn how easy it is to get started with Ritten by booking a demo today.

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