Has Voluntary Public Health Accreditation Impacted Health Department Perceptions and Activities in Quality Improvement and Performance Management?

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Abstract

Context:

The Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) is now in its 10th year, making it an ideal time to study the impact of PHAB accreditation on local health departments (LHDs).

Objective:

To examine whether applying for PHAB accreditation affects perceptions and activities regarding quality improvement (QI) and performance management (PM) within LHDs.

Design:

Data from the National Association of County & City Health Officials' 2010, 2013, and 2016 National Profile of Local Health Departments and associated QI modules were linked to PHAB-applicant data collected in e-PHAB in a cross-sectional and longitudinal approach examining self-reported QI/PM activities.

Participants:

Local health departments responding to National Association of County & City Health Officials Profile questionnaires and QI modules in 2010, 2013, and 2016.

Main Outcome Measures:

Implementation of formal QI program within agency, numbers of formal QI projects in the past year, presence of elements indicating formal QI program implementation, and changes over time by accreditation status as of June 2017.

Results:

Accredited and in-process LHDs showed greater gains over time in all of the outcome measures than LHDs not registered in e-PHAB. Results of logistic regression controlling for population served and governance type found accredited LHDs more likely to report formal QI programs agency-wide (odds ratio: [OR] = 27.0; P < .001) and have implemented 6 to 8 elements of formal QI (OR = 27.0; P < .001) in 2016, compared with nonaccreditation-seeking LHDs. Between 2013 and 2016, LHDs that responded to both survey waves that were registered in e-PHAB or accredited were significantly more likely than nonaccreditation-seeking LHDs to report any increase in overall level of QI implementation (OR = 4.89; P = .006) and increase in number of elements of formal QI (OR = 16.1; P < .001).

Conclusions:

Local health departments accredited by June 2017 and those in process reported more formal QI activities and showed greater improvements with QI/PM implementation over time than LHDs not undertaking accreditation. Public Health Accreditation Board accreditation appears to influence QI/PM uptake. As health departments are contemplating whether to apply for accreditation, the potential for developing a more robust QI/PM system should be taken into account.

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