Student Health and Counseling Center receives three-year accreditation

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The Student Health and Counseling Center (SHCC) at Cal State Fullerton announced its facilities achieved accreditation March 6 for another three-year term from the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC).

This is the highest term of accreditation awarded by the organization. The SHCC and its staff want students to know this means student health is in capable hands.

“It shows we care about the quality of care we give to our students and that we meet nationally-recognized standards for giving good care,” said Kathy Spofford, associate director of the Student Health and Counseling Center, in an email. “If anyone sees the accreditation symbol, they can be sure that an outside, third-party agency has done a review of our services and has recognized us as providing great counseling and health care according to their high standards.”

The AAAHC is an outside agency and nonprofit organization founded in 1979. It accredits more than 5,000 organizations across the United States. These include ambulatory surgical centers, dental group practices, military health care facilities and many more.

“We were the first CSU health center to be accredited by them,” said Misti Osmialowski, executive assistant at the SHCC.

Osmialowski said CSUF has held a continuous accreditation with AAAHC since 1980, part of an executive order for the university’s Student Health and Counseling Center.

The process of accreditation is otherwise completely voluntary and at the discretion of the facility. SHCC is one of only three facilities in the city of Fullerton to hold a AAAHC accreditation.

“We’ve consistently met these very high standards for care,” Osmialowski said.

High standards are important, too. Part of student fees go toward insurance provided to all students through Anthem Blue Cross.

Elba Palomo, 22, a music major, uses SHCC services regularly, but it’s more than just the affordability of services that are important to her.

“They actually listen there,” said Palomo. “They don’t make you feel stupid.”

Ensuring quality of care is part of the process employed by the AAAHC. That process involves analysis from the organization, whose surveyors compare a facility’s services, policies and performance against a national standard. It also requires verification of compliance in all services that the health facility provides.

There are typically eight core chapters that require AAAHC approval. These include rights of patients, governance, administration, quality of care provided, quality management and improvement, clinical records and health information, infection prevention and control safety, and facilities and environment.

On top of this, if a facility provides additional services, they may have to meet additional adjunct standards to reach accreditation. Because of the nature of the SHCC, that number was far larger than eight, Spofford said.

“We needed to have significant compliance in about 16 different areas as we offer many additional services at CSUF,” Spofford said.

This does not account for changes and updates that the AAAHC makes to various standards.  These are listed in a requirements handbook released yearly, but the organization also employs various practices to enforce these standards on accredited facilities.

“AAAHC has just started to do surprise visits as well to keep clinics on their toes,” Spofford said. “You never know when they could show up.”

This leads to a demanding level of self-assessment, which is something the AAAHC mentions as part of its own goals regarding voluntary accreditation by the staff to keep the health center consistently well maintained.

“We go through the whole handbook and analyze everything we do,” Osmialowski said. “We have many meetings … we review every aspect of our care to make sure that we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing according to the (AAAHC) standards.”

Despite the myriad standards and practices required for accreditation, Spofford said the SHCC’s most recent marks were the highest she had seen in her 17 years of healthcare administration.  She hopes students and the community will recognize the hard work the facility and its staff go through to provide excellent services.

“Our accreditation status shows how much we care by voluntarily going through this rigorous process every three years,” Spofford said.

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