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Best of AmBuzz in 2021


By Pearl Darling, MBA, Executive Director, Ambulatory Health Care
While we embark upon a new year, our entire health care system continues to be confronted with many dire challenges. I want to extend good wishes to our ambulatory care community and thank you for all your hard work and commitment to your staff and patients. Many of our brave colleagues continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic into a third calendar year.

In uncertain times, I find it helpful to focus on what unites us and on productive conversations. I can’t think of a better time to reflect on the issues and critical conversations taking place in the ambulatory  care community over the past year. 

Joint Commission Joins COVID-19 Vaccine Alliance
It was with great optimism last March when I announced our participation in the COVID Vaccine Education and Equity Project, which is led by The Alliance for Aging Research, Healthy Women, and the National Caucus and Center on Black Aging. At that time, vaccines were slowly becoming more available and this group of prominent organizations wanted to end racial disparities in vaccine uptake. There’s still a lot of work to be done in encouraging vaccination, but this was an important first step in getting vaccines in arms.

How Racial Bias Affects the Informed Consent Process
The American Medical Association (AMA) announced in late 2020 that racism is a threat to public health. Even in the absence of overt racism, some systemic issues can have negative racial outcomes. Race-based algorithms guiding decisions in the electronic health record tend to unknowingly direct more attention towards white patients. Informed consent is another area susceptible to bias. Guest blogger Sina Haeri, MD, MHSA, Chief Medical Officer, Confirmed Consent, discusses The Joint Commission’s ambulatory care program standards and elements of performance (EPs) related to informed consent and offers insight on standardizing an informed consent platform.

How a Medical Mission Trip Helped Me Find My Spark
Read how guest blogger Laura Huete Suttin, MD, MBA, FACMQ, CMQ, MCPDC, Senior Medical Director at WellMed Medical Management, Inc., used her medical mission as an antidote to burnout. Burnout, defined as a syndrome of depersonalization, emotional exhaustion and decreased effectiveness, is a complex and multifactorial issue. Causes of burnout can be classified as either external or internal. 

Physician burnout is at an all-time high. Even prior to the pandemic, many were considering leaving the profession in response to ever-increasing administrative burdens. Huete Suttin shares her story of returning to her medical roots via a mission trip in Haiti. It’s an inspiring read.

Best Practices in Reprocessing Ultrasound Transducers in Ambulatory Care Settings
One of the areas our surveyors are consistently questioned about is reprocessing ultrasound transducers. This blog post by Diane Cullen, MSN, MBA, RN, CIC, Associate Director, Infection Prevention and Control, answers the most common reprocessing questions and provides a framework for Joint Commission expectations. Don't miss this post!

The Role of System Accreditation Post-Pandemic
Rommie Johnson, Associate Director, Ambulatory Care Services, goes in-depth on The Joint Commission’s system accreditation survey model that awards a single accreditation decision to an ambulatory “system,” usually composed of a headquarter site and multiple sites. This is a particularly popular option for large ambulatory care practices that want to optimize their growth strategies as they serve their communities. Settings include urgent care clinics, freestanding emergency clinics, medical group practices and more. Johnson outlines five steps to streamline system accreditation and reduce unnecessary risk through standardization, which became more important than ever during the pandemic.

New Spine Certification Program
The Advanced Certification for Spine Surgery (ACSS) launched on July 1, 2021. Blogger Helen Larios, Project Director, Clinical, Department of Standards and Survey Methods, explains our collaboration with the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) in developing this program, which promotes consistent communication and collaboration among all health care providers from the initial spine surgery consultation through the follow-up visit after discharge. The program is available to both accredited and non-accredited organizations that can apply online here.

The only certainty in 2022 is that important topics and the conversations are going to evolve quickly. The AmBuzz team is honored to dialogue with you during these turbulent times. If you ever have an idea for a new AmBuzz topic or would like to be featured as a guest author, please reach out by

I dedicate this column to our health care heroes. Be strong, be brave.

Pearl Darling, MBA, is the executive director for the Ambulatory Care Accreditation Program at The Joint Commission (TJC). In this role, she directs business development, strategic direction and overall product line management for Ambulatory Care Services.  She also serves as a board member on the ASC Quality Collaboration (ASC QC). Previously, Ms. Darling served as Associate Director for Ambulatory Care. Darling has been with The Joint Commission for over 19 years.