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Correctional Health Care Accreditation and You

NCJ Number
Corrections Today Volume: 64 Issue: 6 Dated: October 2002 Pages: 22-27
David L. Thomas; Jacqueline A. Thomas
Susan L. Clayton M.S.
Date Published
October 2002
6 pages
This article discusses the quality and improvements in correctional health care over the years and the reasons and necessity for correctional facilities to have their health care services accredited today.
As history as shown, correctional medicine has been a field in transition. Jails and prisons used to be viewed as the last resort of those marginally employable in the health care industry. In addition, State courts believed that incarcerated individuals had limited access to health care. With the intervention of the U.S. Supreme Court, inmate health care changed for the better. Improvements were seen in the quality of the providers. However, these improvements in turn increased the expenses in providing health care and allowed health care providers to challenge security for institutional primacy. These improvements and changes created tension, which created three distinct methods of providing health care to inmates: (1) the traditional public employee model of State or local government directly hiring health care workers as agency employees; (2) the use of private companies contracting with the State or local government to provide health care; and (3) the development of various types of partnerships between private and public providers of correctional health care. These models have offered a variety of opportunities for health care of inmates as well as reducing the administrator’s involvement in the provision of inmate health care services. However, inmate health care can be problematic in the area of legal litigation such as negligent malpractice, violation of civil rights against the provider, and board action against a provider. For these reasons as well as the general operational environment of correctional settings, accreditation by an independent authority is becoming essential for correctional administrators. Some of these independent authorities discussed include: the Joint Commission on Accrediting Health Care Organizations, the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, and the Commission on Accreditation for Corrections under the American Correctional Association (ACA). A unique approach discussed in receiving health care services accreditation developed by ACA is the development of outcome-based standards or outcome performance measurements with a key element of monitoring the consequences of the program’s activities. Due to the history of correctional health care, the court involvement, and the difficulty for non-health care people to assess the cost-effectiveness and constitutionality of care delivered, all correctional facilities should seek health care accreditation.