Thinking about CARF Accreditation???

Are you thinking about pursuing CARF Accreditation for your organization? Maybe this blog post can help you make that decision and prepare for your first survey visit.  Before you read further though, I have to put out here in cyber-land that I’m a CARF surveyor and an unashamed proponent of CARF accreditation versus other accrediting bodies.  I help organizations get prepared for their CARF survey and walk them through the accreditation process (blatant self promotion here).  So now that you know my bias, here’s some information that may be helpful to you in making your decision to pursue CARF accreditation or not.

So what is CARF?  

CARF aka The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities is an international 3rd party accreditation for specific programs in various areas, including: Behavioral Health, Aging Services, Business and Services Management Network, Employment and Community Services, Medical Rehabilitation, Opioid Treatment Program, Vision Rehabilitation Services, Child and Youth Services, DMEPOS (Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics, and Supplies), One-Stop Career Center, and Continuing Care Retirement Communities.

What are the benefits of CARF accreditation?

Here’s what CARF says on their website (

  • Fiscal savings: Financial institutions, including rating agencies, investment bankers, and insurance carriers, look for accreditation as a sign of financial stability. They value the rigorous due diligence that results from accreditation and respond by offering savings on future financial transactions.
  • A marketing advantage: Accreditation gives organizations a competitive edge in the eyes of prospective residents, families, caregivers, and others. Providers displaying the CARF seal stand out in today’s crowded field of provider options.
  • Risk management: Accreditation can help to reduce an organization’s exposure to risk in areas such as human resources, healthcare, governance, and finance.
  • Access to an international network: Accreditation gives an organization the opportunity to collaborate, form partnerships, and share ideas with an international network of other providers that have earned accreditation.

Personally, I have been able to get contracts with governing entities and community stakeholders due to having CARF accreditation for the programs at my organization.  I’ve found that having accreditation has made my organization stand out among others in the community.  It shows that we care about best practices, and are willing to invest in quality and accountability within the organization.  Another benefit is that having accreditation has saved valuable time and money in the credentialing process with managed care payers allowing us to bypass the need for a site visit by the managed care company.

What I really like about CARF versus other accrediting bodies…(1) all CARF surveyors also work at organizations with CARF accreditation, so we go through the same process of being surveyed ourselves and we know your anxiety in a real sense; (2) the CARF standards are mostly non-prescriptive meaning that there are many ways to demonstrate conformance to the standards and CARF doesn’t prescribe one way of meeting the standard (notice I said “mostly” here…there are some standards that specify certain things); and (3) the CARF survey is consultative rather than inspective in nature and the surveyors offer lots of consultation during the survey to help you be even better as an organization.

How to prepare for your 1st CARF survey?

It’s a lot of hard work to prepare for the initial CARF survey visit and you need to be working on this at least 1 year before you plan to have the survey team come to your organization. Yes, you heard me correctly….you need to start preparing 1 year in advance at least!  Give yourself even more time if you have it and here’s why…

  1. You need to read and figure out how to implement the CARF manual (and it’s a BIG manual).
  2. You are going to have to write and/or revise LOTS of policies and procedures.
  3. Your employees need to be trained on all these new/revised policies and procedures.
  4. You need to get feedback from all your stakeholders (clients served, community partners, staff, and anyone else your organization interfaces with on a regular basis) on how you’re doing and implement that feedback within all those policies and procedures you just wrote.
  5. You have to be doing all of this for 6 months prior to your initial CARF survey visit.

WHEW! Sounds like a lot doesn’t it?!  Well it is…and it’s a somewhat challenging process as your organization goes through all the needed adjustments to meet all the CARF standards.  Don’t lose hope yet though!  It’s a doable process with a little planning and a committee of people at your organization that can divy up the workload.  Or you can always call reinforcements like me to help you get ready (more blatant self promotion :))

I hope you choose accreditation for your organization, and specifically CARF accreditation, as it will demonstrate that your organization is committed to providing quality services that benefit the people you serve.

By: Adrianne Trogden