A key element of successful CARF accreditation is generating input from your organization’s stakeholders (program participants, employees, family members, referral sources, etc.) and using the input to increase quality of services and your financial bottom line.

Stakeholder surveys are a foundational component of the input process. Below are some tips for obtaining and using the input of your organization’s stakeholders.

  1. A Well-Designed Survey:  A well-designed survey produces person and organizational-centered information directly related to the needs and preferences of all stakeholders. Areas of inquiry closely follow the standards of accreditation. It is important to organize subject areas into categories that address specific standards that require stakeholder input. For example, stakeholder needs related to the CARF standard addressing transportation accessibility might be obtained through a series of survey questions about transportation availability, cost, and related geographic factors. Other important components of stakeholder survey design are ease of use, reading and comprehension levels, use of current and available feedback survey technology, and obtaining results in understandable and usable formats.
  2. “Selling” the Survey Process: Leadership’s communication that input is valued and the results will be utilized to benefit all stakeholders is a critical component in the stakeholder survey process. “We are just doing this because it’s a requirement for CARF” will have about the same outcome as telling your spouse you are staying in the relationship because you are too old and fat to play the singles’ game.  A good approach to get buy-in from your stakeholders is to let folks know the process will be transparent, the results will be shared, and that you will seek ideas from stakeholders with how to use the results to improve services, workplace environment, referral mechanisms, etc.
  3. A Fluid Survey Process: Stakeholder surveys are not a one-time event. You start with surveys to develop your improvement plans, assemble your policies and procedures, and establish practices that will lead to a successful initial accreditation outcome. You are also developing an ongoing system of information gathering that will become a regular part of managing your business after the initial accreditation is achieved.
  4. Crunching the Numbers:  So you have a lot of data from your surveys. Now what? There is no need to hire a statistician or get a local university PhD candidate working on a dissertation to figure it all out. Be practical. Are there any “outliers” within specific areas assessed? For example, four of the five questions specific to transportation accessibility result in an average score of 4.6 or better on a 6.0 rating scale. One question, related to cost, averages 4.0, which is still above “satisfied” on the rating scale. It is an “outlier”, explore it further through a focused survey or a focus group.
  5. Using the Results: “Don’t identify a problem unless you are willing to offer a solution.” You are asking a variety of stakeholders to identify areas of improvement that will lead to successful accreditation. So keep going back to the well for more water. In other words, the persons who know what needs to be improved to support your business/organization usually have all kinds of ideas for how to improve it. Share the results. Get input and opinions from staff about what the numbers mean. Most likely, the results will mirror what folks have been communicating informally. Take advantage of the resources you have in “human resources.” How many times has someone said, “Gee, I knew the answer, but nobody asked.” The concept of a person-centered approach is not limited to individualizing a treatment plan. It also includes input and involvement of stakeholders in the majority of the processes related to the CARF standards.