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You often hear the word accreditation in many contexts, from degree programs to hospitals to colleges and universities. The word usually sparks a sense of urgency or concern in an administrator's voice, too, so it must be fairly important. While you undoubtedly don't lose sleep over accreditation or wondering how it fits into your life, it is of importance to you as a student, trainee, future preceptor or practice leader, and even patient. Let's dig a bit deeper into the concept.

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Accreditation is much like a final grade in a pharmacy course—an external assessment of performance as applied to predetermined criteria or standards. Without accreditation, it becomes difficult to understand the quality or performance of a hospital beyond the marketing, public relations, and external face the organization wears in the community. If your mother developed a life-threatening medical condition, you would want her to receive the best care possible and would likely search for unbiased measures of the care she could expect, rather than selecting a hospital based on its catchy marketing slogan. Relying upon the role of unbiased experts to examine the organization, its commitment to quality, and how patients fare, seems to be a much more prudent thing to do. That's where accreditation comes in. Most industries, and in our case the broad profession of health care, have expected standards that need to be maintained to ensure the best quality of care. In health care, we look to experts in accreditation to provide that outside source of information about an organization.

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In the context of pharmacy in the United States, accreditation affects hospitals, universities, colleges of pharmacy, and workforce training (including residencies, fellowships, and technician training) programs, and it's even an emerging concept in community pharmacies, given the collaboration with American Pharmacists Association (APhA) and the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP).1 The Joint Commission (TJC) accredits hospitals and health systems to ensure “safe and effective care of the highest quality and value,” and the National Committee for Quality Assurance accredits health plans, health and wellness programs, disease management programs, and behavioral healthcare organizations.2,3 Colleges and universities are accredited by regional organizations (e.g., Southern Associations of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges) to grant academic degrees at higher education institutions.4 Specific to pharmacy, the ACPE is an acronym you will continue to hear throughout your career in the United States, as that organization accredits Doctor of Pharmacy and pharmacy continuing education providers.5 ACPE accredits Doctor of Pharmacy programs to ensure the school or college is providing quality education to you as a student to make you knowledgeable and prepared to be a competent pharmacist. This process protects you as a “customer,” as you are investing a significant amount of time and years in your life to your profession, and you certainly want some assurance that those investments will pay off. Given that pharmacy licensure in the United States is predicated upon your ...

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