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Getting medical practice accreditation in Australia

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Getting accredited bestows recognition of quality and safety of care on any medical practice in Australia. It gives assurance of high standards of service users, managers, funding bodies and all other stakeholders.

Accredited medical practices have a competitive edge over those that are not and accreditation provides access to the Practice Incentives Program (PIP), a quality improvement service program that enhances a practice's ability to benefit from a range of financial incentives.

To obtain accreditation, a medical practice must comply with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) standards for general practices. Medical practices must meet the RACGP definition of a general practice and must apply through an independent accreditation agency supported by the RACGP.

The two agencies supported by the RACGP for accreditation within Australia utilise a third party peer review model in which one surveyor is a general practitioner.

An initial self-assessment is conducted by the practice in order to understand how to meet the RACGP standards. This is followed by a formal application and planning for an accreditation survey. Typically, preparation for an accreditation survey takes between 12- 18 months.

A range of educational offerings are provided to give access to on-line and face-to-face learning resources, real-world case studies and insights into the latest news to support and enable the practice implement quality improvement practices during the accreditation cycle.

The accreditation survey commences with an on-site review by a qualified survey team to assess the compliance of the practice against RACGP standards. Medical practices can demonstrate their compliance with the standards through health records of their patients, documented feedback from patients, practice procedure manuals, practice policy documentation and verbal representation from practice teams.

A report of the survey evaluates the practice's systems and processes with a view to determining if the practice has fully complied with all the required standards, criteria and indicators. If the standard has not been complied with in a particular area because a particular indicator does not apply to the practice, practice teams are given an opportunity to submit evidence that peers would agree with such an assessment. It is expected that every attempt has been made to provide a fair and transparent decision on a practice's accreditation status.

Medical practices unable to apply for accreditation through one of the agencies because they do not meet the RACGP's standard definition of medical practice are still encouraged to undertake the self-assessment and to review the assessment with peers who can provide a feedback on quality improvement activities.