Independent Pharmacy Accreditation: Which Accreditation is Best for Your Business?
Updated: Feb 15
So you’ve decided to take the plunge and apply for accreditation for your independent pharmacy. But which one should you apply for? There are a ton of accreditations out there, and even more acronyms to go along with them. ACHC, URAC, TJC, CPPA, VIPPS… Can you tell the difference between these? Don’t feel bad if you can’t. The overall process of applying for accreditation can be daunting. When deciding which one to go with, remember what led you to this decision in the first place. By selecting a “niche” for your pharmacy, such as specialty, compounding, or home health, you might want to research what other similar pharmacies are accredited for.
ACHC, which stands for the Accreditation Commission for Health Care, has several accreditation programs, including community retail pharmacy, compounding, home health, specialty pharmacy, hospital pharmacy, and many more. They are what’s known as a deeming authority for third parties such as Medicare and Medicaid meaning they can determine which facilities meet certain certification requirements. ACHC places a strong focus on the on-site survey after reviewing your policies, to ensure that pharmacy staff follows the same procedures day in and day out.
The Utilization Review Accreditation Commission is better known as URAC (www.urac.org). URAC is often considered the gold standard for specialty pharmacy accreditation but they also accredit other programs such as community pharmacy, mail service pharmacy, and even health plan and PBM (pharmacy benefit management) accreditations. There are usually measurement reporting requirements with most URAC accreditation programs. URAC will spend some time reviewing your policies and may request corrections before performing their on-site survey.
TJC is The Joint Commission. The Joint Commission has traditionally been known for its hospital accreditations but they also offer pharmacy accreditation program as well as home health care. Many pharmacy owners might not go this route unless the pharmacy also offers home health care, but for awhile The Joint Commission was one of the only accrediting bodies available, so it is important for you to know that this is an option. The Joint Commission is also considered a deeming authority for Medicare and Medicaid.
CPPA is the Center for Pharmacy Practice Accreditation and is relatively newer compared to the other accreditations we’ve discussed so far. CPPA accredits three pharmacy programs currently, and those are community pharmacy, specialty pharmacy, and telehealth pharmacy. The American Pharmacists Association (APhA), the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) partnered up to form CPPA in 2012.
VIPPS stands for Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites and was developed in response to illegal online pharmacies that were operating to the detriment of the public. Some pharmacies may not qualify right off the bat due to ownership or other disqualifications. Be sure to contact VIPPS to find out specifications before spending a lot of time on their policies and standards. Once a pharmacy is VIPPS accredited, the pharmacy may be able to advertise online with search engines like Google. This might be the biggest benefit to going through with VIPPS accreditation. The NABP acknowledges the VIPPS accreditation program and the VPP (Verified Pharmacy Program) is a separate service that administers the survey. It is also worth noting that you can contact VPP for an inspection for any reason, as some insurance contracts may request one within a certain date range. The State Board of Pharmacy inspects pharmacies but oftentimes if your pharmacy is following state rules and regulations, it may have been some time since your last BOP inspection.
Accreditation agencies are just third parties that evaluate pharmacies to determine they meet certain standards pursuant to an application for accreditation. All of them have their own set of standards and requirements but they are also all similar in a way that by gaining these accreditations, you and your pharmacy demonstrate that you are committed to patient care and improving quality outcomes. If you wish to become a Specialty Pharmacy, first check any insurance or PBM contracts that you will be signing, to see if they require one accreditation over another. Many might require dual-accreditation meaning that you must choose two agencies to apply for and obtain. The entire process requires commitment. Commitments of time and resources to patient care and quality improvement. You will be looking at an average of about six to nine months for each accreditation. All will consist of an application process involving a thorough review of policies and procedures and an on-site survey to determine the pharmacy is following the procedures adequately. The accreditation agency will then make a decision to grant their “seal” for the pharmacy to proudly display and the pharmacy can then be placed on the agency’s website of accredited organizations.