Researching the reliability of accreditation survey teams: lessons learnt when things went awry
Greenfield, D and Pawsey, M and Naylor, J and Braithwaite, J, Researching the reliability of accreditation survey teams: lessons learnt when things went awry, Health Information Management Journal, 42, (1) pp. 4-10. ISSN 1833-3583 (2013) [Contribution to Refereed Journal]
Accreditation of health organisations, occurring in over 70 countries, is predicated upon the reliability of survey
teamsí judgements, but we do not know the extent to which survey teams are reliable. To contribute evidence
to this issue, we investigated the reliability of two survey teams simultaneously assessing an organisation. The
setting was a large A ustralian teaching hospital, and data were derived from interviews, observations and survey
documents. Participants were from four groups: hospital staff, accreditation agency personnel and surveyors, and
research staff. Thematic analysis was employed to identify significant factors that influenced the study. The two
survey teamsí ratings and recommendations demonstrated high levels of agreement. However, while a common
understanding of the study existed, the research was compromised. There were difficulties enacting the study.
Contrary to negotiated arrangements, the pressure of the study resulted in surveyors discussing evidence and
their interpretation of standards. Uncontrollable circumstances (late changes of personnel), and unexpected
events (a breakdown of working relationships), challenged the study. The twin lessons learnt are that a consistent
survey outcome is likely to be reached when reliability of process and consistent application of standards are
pursued, and research requires negotiating challenges and relationships.