Facts about Disease-Specific Care Certification | Joint Commission
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Facts about Disease-Specific Care Certification

January 17, 2018

The Joint Commission’s Disease-Specific Care (DSC) certification program, launched in 2002, is designed to evaluate clinical programs across the continuum of care. Most certifications are offered to Joint Commission-accredited organizations, however some certifications are offered to programs that are part of a hospital that is compliant with applicable federal laws, including Medicare Conditions of Participation.  Check the standards manual for details on the certification for your program.

Advanced certification
The Joint Commission offers an advanced-level of certification in 13 clinical or procedural areas. These programs must meet the requirements for DSC Certification plus additional, clinically-specific requirements and expectations. The advanced certification programs are:

  • Acute Stroke Ready Hospital
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Comprehensive cardiac center
  • Comprehensive stroke center
  • Heart failure
  • Inpatient diabetes
  • Lung volume reduction surgery*
  • Palliative care
  • Perinatal care
  • Primary stroke center
  • Total hip and total knee replacement
  • Ventricular assist device*

*These are required by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

On-site review
The on-site review and the intracycle evaluation help the DSC program identify and correct problems and improve the quality of care and services. To become certified, an organization is evaluated during an on-site review conducted by one or two Joint Commission reviewers, who will assess:

  • How clinical outcomes and other performance measures are used to identify opportunities to improve care.
  • Whether the organization leaders understand and commit to improving the quality of care for patients in need of the services the program provides.
  • How patients and their caregivers are educated and prepared for discharge.

Reviewers also will validate that evidence-based guidelines for clinical care are incorporated into daily clinical practices. The on-site review will include the use of the tracer methodology — the cornerstone of The Joint Commission’s on-site certification process. The objectives of the tracer methodology include:

  • Following the experience of care for patients through the program’s entire continuum of care.
  • Identifying performance issues in one or more steps of the process or in the interfaces between processes.
  • Validating compliance with the standards through interviews and observations.

The tracer methodology permits reviewers to “pull the threads” if there is a reason to believe that an issue needs further exploration.

Ongoing certification requirements

Disease-specific programs that successfully demonstrate compliance with The Joint Commission’s requirements during the on-site review are awarded certification for a two-year period. At the end of the first year, the organization is required to participate in an Intracycle Monitoring (ICM) conference call to attest to its continued compliance with the standards and to review performance improvement activities. Certified programs are required to regularly submit data to The Joint Commission, and standardized performance measures are currently available for seven advanced certification programs – acute stroke ready hospitals, comprehensive stroke centers, heart failure, palliative care, perinatal care, primary stroke centers, and total hip and total knee replacement. All other certified programs may use existing relevant performance measures or self-specify measures based on their goals for improvement.

Read more about DCS certification   

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