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Disease Specific Care Certification Fact Sheet

  • The Disease-Specific Care (DSC) Certification program launched in 2002 to evaluate clinical programs across the continuum of care.
  • Organizations may seek certification for care and services provided for virtually any chronic disease or condition.

Advanced certification

The Joint Commission offers an advanced level of certification in 17 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 heart attack ready
  • Acute stroke ready hospital
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Comprehensive cardiac center
  • Comprehensive heart attack center
  • Comprehensive stroke center
  • Heart failure
  • Inpatient diabetes
  • Lung volume reduction surgery*
  • Palliative care
  • Perinatal care
  • Primary heart attack center
  • Primary stroke center
  • Spine surgery
  • Thrombectomy-capable 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 DSC 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 13 advanced certification programs – acute stroke ready hospitals, acute heart attack ready, comprehensive cardiac centers, comprehensive heart attack centers, comprehensive stroke centers, heart failure, palliative care, perinatal care, primary heart attack centers, primary stroke centers, spine surgery, thrombectomy-capable 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.

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