The Joint Commission Returns to Unannounced Onsite Surveys


The Joint Commission Returns to Unannounced Onsite Surveys

Over the last nine months, The Joint Commission of Oakbook Terrace, Illinois, delayed its traditional onsite survey activity due to the restrictions and strain on the healthcare system caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a March 10 press release. During the past few months, The Joint Commission’s account executives reached out to organizations to determine their readiness for survey. Based on the responses, on March 15, 2021, The Joint Commission returned to its usual procedures prior to the pandemic. This return to unannounced surveys does not apply to freestanding behavioral healthcare and human services facilities or disease-specific care and healthcare staffing certification programs.

Organizations will no longer receive a phone call or email from their account executive when it has been determined the area is low risk for The Joint Commission’s accreditation survey team to visit. All available resources will be utilized to conduct onsite, unannounced accreditation surveys, according to the release. Organizations should continue to monitor the Notification of Scheduled Events section of their Joint Commission Connect extranet page for notification on the first day of the unannounced survey. Additionally, the organization’s primary accreditation contact and chief executive officer will continue to receive email notification of the scheduled event on the first day of the unannounced survey.

Joint Commission surveyors are considered essential workers and are following the most up-to-date guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While the survey team will be onsite, they will continue to:

  • practice safe physical distancing by limiting the number of individuals in group sessions, minimizing the number of staff who accompany a surveyor or reviewer during tracer activities and driving in separate vehicles (or, for surveyors and reviewers, their own vehicles) to offsite locations or home visits;
  • wear personal protective equipment (PPE) by requiring Joint Commission surveyors and reviewers to wear masks and asking that healthcare organizations provide masks and/or other PPE to surveyors and reviewers; and
  • utilize enhanced technology to support physical distancing, such as screen sharing or projection to review electronic medical records and interview care recipients or staff; and incorporating audio/video conference calls to safely expand the number of meeting attendees.

The Joint Commission will continue to work with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) as an accrediting organization with deeming authority to conduct Medicare surveys by prioritizing organizations with accreditation due dates that are past due, according to the release. An organization’s existing accreditation remains in effect until a new survey takes place and a new accreditation decision has been rendered.

If an onsite survey is not possible in an organization’s area, an account executive will contact the organization to determine whether the survey event can be performed offsite/virtually, with an onsite evaluation taking place for those that meet the follow-up requirement. If there are extenuating circumstances that pose a significant challenge to the organization’s ability to participate in a survey, organizations are asked to contact their account executive.