Cougar Health Services earns three-year accreditation

A doctor takes a patient's pulse while the patient sits on a examination table.
CHS was evaluated on over 490 AAAHC standards that touched on everything from policies and procedures to staff training and services provided.

Following a months-long internal review of its policies and practices and an intensive two‑day on‑site review, Cougar Health Services (CHS) on the Washington State University Pullman campus has been reaccredited by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC) for the next three years. The extension keeps CHS among the 25% of the nation’s student health centers that have achieved AAAHC accreditation, something it has maintained since it first applied in 1996.

The AAAHC is the nation’s leading accrediting agency for ambulatory health care centers. The accreditation applies to all aspects of CHS: the medical clinic, Counseling and Psychological Services, the pharmacy, and vision clinic. 

“It is something to be proud of, and it’s good for our students to know that when they come to WSU, they will receive the best care at Cougar Health Services,” said Justin Petersen, quality assurance & compliance coordinator at CHS who led the accreditation process.

Earning accreditation demonstrates an organization’s commitment to providing safe, high-quality services to its patients. As part of the process, CHS was evaluated on over 490 AAAHC standards that touched on everything from policies and procedures to staff training and services provided, Petersen said. Meeting or exceeding the established accreditation standards, as CHS has, shows that the organization has developed effective practices and processes that comply with federal, state, and local laws, and is committed to a culture of continual improvement. 

Patient satisfaction a point of pride 

Among the many areas where CHS excels, according to the accreditation findings, is in patient satisfaction — something Joel Schwartzkopf, assistant vice chancellor for student health and well‑being and executive director of CHS, watches closely. 

Among the patient satisfaction data analyzed by AAAHC were survey results from last spring showing that of the 186 students who visited CHS and responded to a survey, over 92% rated their experience as a four or five on a five‑point scale, a five indicating they were very satisfied.

“Patient satisfaction is my number‑one goal and one of the ultimate measures of our medical outcomes,” Schwartzkopf said. “Our success in this area is something I take great pride in.”

AAAHC also noted the cohesiveness of CHS staff members and the enthusiasm they have for their work.

“They could sense a great amount of teamwork and pride from the CHS staff,” Schwartzkopf said. “It’s part of our Coug spirit, where everyone is united around our mission of providing the best possible service to our students.”

Schwartzkopf and Petersen also appreciated learning where CHS can strengthen its services. One of those areas is to expand the peer review process, in which CHS providers routinely cross-check each other’s documentation. Such reviews help make sure patients are prescribed the most effective medications and providers are using the most up-to-date practices.

Providing quality care for the LGBTQ+ community

Now that CHS has renewed its AAAHC accreditation, it is working diligently to earn a different kind of certificate for the first time: Health Equity Index Accreditation through the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). 

Petersen said the HRC accreditation is focused on helping members of the LGBTQ+ community find safe and reliable health care providers, something that is especially important at a time when LGBTQ+ civil rights are being attacked in many states.

Only a dozen student health centers have received Health Equity Index Accreditation nationally, and none are in Eastern Washington or Idaho.

“Having this designation is critical for our LGBTQ+ population, especially with the current political climate around health care and LGBTQ+ rights,” Petersen said. “As an openly queer health care professional, this is a passion project of mine, as I strongly believe in equitable access and treatment for all individuals.”

CHS will submit the Health Equity Index Accreditation application in September.

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