Life safety features in ambulatory care settings

Addressing Life Safety Features in Ambulatory Care Settings

When it comes to ensuring the safety and well-being of patients, staff, and visitors in ambulatory care settings, life safety features play a crucial role. These features encompass a range of elements and systems designed to prevent and minimize the risk of fire, smoke, and other emergencies. To address the unique life safety drawing requirements for ambulatory care facilities, it is essential to understand the key components and regulations involved.

What are the important life safety features that ambulatory care settings should prioritize?

First and foremost, fire alarm systems are integral to any ambulatory care facility. These systems detect and alert occupants about the presence of fire or smoke, allowing for timely evacuation and response. Additionally, fire suppression systems such as sprinklers help to control or extinguish fires, limiting their spread and damage. Both of these systems must comply with specific codes and standards set by regulatory bodies.

Another critical aspect of life safety in ambulatory care settings is emergency lighting. In the event of a power outage or emergency situation, properly installed and maintained emergency lighting ensures that occupants can safely navigate the facility and find exits. This includes illuminated exit signs, pathway lighting, and stairwell lighting.

What about the importance of proper ventilation and egress routes?

Ventilation systems are vital for maintaining a safe and healthy environment within ambulatory care facilities. These systems help control the spread of airborne contaminants, reduce the risk of infection, and maintain a comfortable temperature. Regular inspections and maintenance of ventilation equipment are necessary to ensure optimal performance.

In terms of egress routes, it is crucial to have clear and unobstructed pathways for safe evacuation during emergencies. This includes properly marked exit doors, easily accessible stairwells, and appropriate signage throughout the facility. Regular drills and training sessions should be conducted to familiarize occupants with evacuation procedures and escape routes.

How can Life Safety Express assist with these requirements?

At Life Safety Express, we understand the importance of addressing the unique life safety drawing requirements for ambulatory care settings. Our team of experts is well-versed in the codes and regulations specific to these facilities, ensuring that your organization meets all necessary compliance standards.

With our comprehensive range of services, including fire alarm system design, installation, and maintenance, as well as emergency lighting and ventilation system inspections, we can help you create a safe and secure environment. Our knowledgeable professionals will guide you through the process, providing practical solutions tailored to your specific needs.

Don’t compromise when it comes to life safety in ambulatory care settings. Contact Life Safety Express today and let us help you achieve peace of mind knowing that your facility is equipped with the necessary life safety features to protect everyone within its walls.

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Overview of Ambulatory Care Settings

Understanding Ambulatory Care Settings

Ambulatory care settings are healthcare facilities where patients receive medical services without the need for an overnight stay. These settings encompass a wide range of healthcare services including, but not limited to, outpatient clinics, surgical centers, diagnostic centers, urgent care, and physician offices. The primary focus of ambulatory care is to provide convenient and accessible healthcare services that cater to the immediate needs of patients.

In recent years, there has been a significant shift towards ambulatory care due to advancements in medical technology, changes in patient preferences, and the drive to reduce healthcare costs. This shift has led to an increase in the number and variety of procedures that can be performed on an outpatient basis. As a result, ambulatory care settings have become an integral part of the healthcare delivery system, providing a range of services from preventive care and routine check-ups to complex surgical procedures and specialized treatments.

Characteristics of Ambulatory Care Settings

Ambulatory care settings are characterized by their focus on patient-centered care, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. They are designed to be more accessible than traditional hospital settings, often located in community-based locations that are easier for patients to reach. The layout and design of these facilities are typically streamlined to facilitate quick and efficient patient flow, minimizing wait times and improving the overall patient experience.

Another key characteristic of ambulatory care settings is the use of multidisciplinary teams. These teams often include physicians, nurses, medical assistants, and other healthcare professionals who work collaboratively to provide comprehensive care. The use of electronic health records (EHRs) and other digital tools is also prevalent in ambulatory care settings, enhancing communication among healthcare providers and improving the coordination of care.

Challenges Faced by Ambulatory Care Settings

Despite the many benefits of ambulatory care, these settings also face unique challenges. One of the primary challenges is maintaining high standards of patient safety and quality care in a fast-paced environment. Ambulatory care settings must adhere to strict regulatory requirements and accreditation standards to ensure that they provide safe and effective care.

Another challenge is the need to be prepared for emergencies, including fires, natural disasters, and other unexpected events. Ambulatory care facilities must have comprehensive emergency preparedness plans in place to protect patients, staff, and visitors. This includes having well-defined evacuation procedures, fire safety measures, and protocols for handling hazardous materials.

Additionally, ambulatory care settings must be equipped to accommodate patients with disabilities, ensuring accessibility and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Security measures are also crucial to protect the safety of patients and staff from potential threats such as violence or theft.

Ambulatory care settings play a vital role in the healthcare system by providing convenient and cost-effective services to patients. However, they must navigate various challenges to ensure the safety and quality of care. By understanding the unique aspects of ambulatory care, healthcare executives, administrators, managers, and safety coordinators can work towards achieving and maintaining compliance with TJC regulations and accreditation requirements.

Fire Safety Measures and Protocols

Fire safety is a critical concern in ambulatory care settings, where the presence of medical equipment, oxygen tanks, and other flammable materials can increase the risk of fire. To mitigate these risks, it is essential to implement comprehensive fire safety measures and protocols that adhere to the standards set by The Joint Commission (TJC) and other regulatory bodies.

One of the fundamental aspects of fire safety is the installation and maintenance of fire detection and suppression systems. This includes smoke detectors, fire alarms, sprinkler systems, and fire extinguishers strategically placed throughout the facility. Regular testing and inspection of these systems are crucial to ensure they are in proper working order and can effectively respond in the event of a fire.

Another key component of fire safety is staff training and education. All employees should be well-versed in fire prevention practices, such as proper storage of flammable materials, safe use of electrical equipment, and adherence to smoking policies. Additionally, staff should be trained in the use of fire extinguishers and familiar with the facility’s evacuation plan.

Developing an Evacuation Plan

Developing a clear and efficient evacuation plan is vital for ensuring the safety of patients, staff, and visitors in the event of a fire. The plan should include designated escape routes, assembly points, and procedures for assisting patients with mobility issues. Regular drills should be conducted to familiarize staff with the evacuation process and identify any potential areas for improvement.

Coordination with Local Fire Departments

Coordination with local fire departments is also essential for effective fire safety management. Establishing a relationship with these agencies allows for joint training exercises, sharing of best practices, and streamlined communication during an emergency. It also ensures that the fire department is familiar with the layout of the facility and any specific risks associated with the healthcare setting.

Documentation and Record Keeping

Meticulous documentation and record-keeping are necessary to demonstrate compliance with fire safety regulations. This includes maintaining records of system inspections, staff training sessions, evacuation drills, and any incidents that occur. These records not only serve as evidence of compliance but also provide valuable data for continuous improvement of fire safety protocols.

Fire safety measures and protocols are a critical aspect of ensuring the well-being of everyone in ambulatory care settings. By implementing robust detection and suppression systems, providing comprehensive staff training, developing an effective evacuation plan, coordinating with local fire departments, and maintaining thorough documentation, facilities can create a safer environment for all. As part of their commitment to patient safety and quality care, healthcare executives, administrators, managers, and safety coordinators must prioritize fire safety as an integral component of their overall emergency preparedness strategy.

Emergency Evacuation Procedures

Emergency evacuation procedures are a crucial aspect of safety protocols in ambulatory care settings. These procedures are designed to ensure the swift and orderly removal of patients, staff, and visitors from the facility in the event of a fire, natural disaster, or other emergencies. The goal is to minimize harm and ensure that everyone reaches a safe location as quickly as possible.

Developing an Effective Evacuation Plan

An effective evacuation plan begins with a thorough assessment of the facility’s layout, identifying all possible exits and determining the most efficient evacuation routes. The plan should account for various scenarios, including the location of the emergency and the potential impact on access to exits. It is essential to consider the needs of all individuals within the facility, including patients with disabilities or mobility issues.

Once the evacuation routes are established, clear signage should be placed throughout the facility to guide individuals to safety. These signs should be easily visible and include Braille and pictograms for those with visual impairments. Additionally, emergency lighting systems should be installed to illuminate evacuation paths in case of power failure.

Training and Drills

Regular training sessions for staff are necessary to ensure they are familiar with the evacuation plan and their roles during an emergency. This training should include instructions on how to assist patients with mobility issues, operate emergency equipment, and communicate effectively during a crisis. Staff should also be trained in basic first aid and CPR to provide immediate assistance if needed.

Conducting regular evacuation drills is another critical component of emergency preparedness. These drills allow staff to practice the evacuation procedures and identify any areas that may need improvement. Drills should be conducted at different times of the day and under varying conditions to simulate real-life scenarios as closely as possible.

Coordination with Emergency Services

Effective coordination with local emergency services is vital for a successful evacuation. Ambulatory care facilities should establish communication protocols with fire departments, police, and emergency medical services to ensure a coordinated response during an emergency. This includes providing emergency responders with detailed floor plans, access points, and information about any hazardous materials on-site.

Special Considerations for Patients

Patients in ambulatory care settings may have unique needs that must be considered during an evacuation. For example, patients undergoing surgery or other procedures may require additional assistance or equipment to be safely evacuated. Facilities should have protocols in place for quickly and safely transporting these patients without compromising their care.

For patients with disabilities, facilities must ensure that evacuation procedures comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. This includes providing accessible evacuation routes, equipment such as evacuation chairs, and trained staff to assist these patients.

Documentation and Review

Maintaining accurate records of evacuation procedures, training sessions, and drills is essential for regulatory compliance and continuous improvement. These records should be reviewed regularly to assess the effectiveness of the evacuation plan and make any necessary adjustments.

Emergency evacuation procedures are a critical component of safety protocols in ambulatory care settings. By developing an effective evacuation plan, providing comprehensive training for staff, coordinating with emergency services, considering the needs of patients, and maintaining thorough documentation, facilities can ensure the safety of everyone in the event of an emergency. Healthcare executives, administrators, managers, and safety coordinators must prioritize these procedures as part of their commitment to patient safety and quality care.

Medical Equipment Safety Standards

In ambulatory care settings, medical equipment plays a crucial role in diagnosing, treating, and monitoring patients. Ensuring the safety and proper functioning of this equipment is paramount to providing high-quality care and maintaining patient safety. Adherence to medical equipment safety standards is not only a regulatory requirement but also a moral obligation for healthcare providers.

Regular Maintenance and Inspection

Regular maintenance and inspection of medical equipment are essential to prevent malfunctions or failures that could lead to patient harm. This includes scheduled calibration, software updates, and physical inspections to identify wear and tear or potential hazards. Maintenance records should be meticulously documented, detailing the date, nature of the service, and the technician’s name who performed the work.

Staff Training and Competency

Staff who operate medical equipment must be adequately trained and demonstrate competency in its use. This training should cover the proper operation of the equipment, troubleshooting common issues, and emergency procedures in case of equipment failure. Ongoing education and refresher courses are necessary to ensure staff remain proficient in using new or updated equipment.

Risk Management and Incident Reporting

Risk management protocols should be in place to identify and mitigate potential hazards associated with medical equipment. This includes conducting risk assessments, implementing safety measures, and establishing clear incident reporting procedures. When an incident occurs, it should be promptly reported, investigated, and addressed to prevent recurrence.

Compliance with Standards and Regulations

Ambulatory care settings must comply with various standards and regulations related to medical equipment safety. These include guidelines from organizations such as The Joint Commission (TJC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). Compliance ensures that equipment meets performance, safety, and quality requirements.

Use of Certified Equipment

All medical equipment used in ambulatory care settings should be certified by recognized bodies to ensure it meets safety standards. Certification indicates that the equipment has undergone rigorous testing and evaluation to confirm its safety for patient use.

Integration with Electronic Health Records (EHRs)

The integration of medical equipment with electronic health records (EHRs) enhances patient safety by ensuring accurate and timely documentation of diagnostic data, treatment parameters, and monitoring results. This integration facilitates better communication among healthcare providers and reduces the risk of errors associated with manual data entry.

Emergency Preparedness

Ambulatory care facilities must have emergency preparedness plans that include protocols for medical equipment failure. This may involve having backup systems, alternative power sources, or contingency plans for transferring patients to other facilities if necessary.

Maintaining medical equipment safety standards is a critical aspect of patient care in ambulatory care settings. By implementing regular maintenance schedules, ensuring staff competency, adhering to regulations, using certified equipment, integrating with EHRs, and preparing for emergencies, healthcare executives, administrators, managers, and safety coordinators can provide a safe environment for patients and staff alike.

Hazardous Material Handling and Storage

In ambulatory care settings, the handling and storage of hazardous materials require strict adherence to safety protocols to protect patients, staff, and the environment. Hazardous materials may include chemicals, pharmaceuticals, radioactive substances, and biohazardous waste, each with its own set of risks and regulatory requirements.

Identification and Labeling

Proper identification and labeling of hazardous materials are the first steps in ensuring safe handling and storage. Containers should be clearly labeled with the contents, hazard warnings, and any necessary handling instructions. This not only aids in preventing accidental exposure or misuse but also assists emergency responders in the event of an incident.

Storage Requirements

Hazardous materials must be stored in designated areas that are secure, well-ventilated, and equipped with appropriate containment measures. These areas should be separate from patient care zones and only accessible to trained personnel. Flammable materials require special storage conditions, such as explosion-proof refrigerators or cabinets designed to contain fires.

Training and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Staff who handle hazardous materials must receive comprehensive training on proper techniques, potential risks, and emergency response procedures. They should also be provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, goggles, lab coats, and respirators, as appropriate for the materials they are handling.

Spill Response and Disposal

Ambulatory care facilities must have spill response plans in place to address accidental releases of hazardous materials promptly. This includes having spill kits readily available, containing absorbents, neutralizers, and protective gear. Proper disposal of hazardous waste is equally important, following local, state, and federal regulations to prevent environmental contamination.

Inventory Management

Maintaining an accurate inventory of hazardous materials is crucial for safety and regulatory compliance. Inventory records should include the quantity, location, and expiration dates of all materials. Regular audits can help identify any discrepancies and ensure that outdated or excess materials are disposed of properly.

Regulatory Compliance

Compliance with regulations from agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and The Joint Commission (TJC) is mandatory for ambulatory care settings. These regulations cover various aspects of hazardous material management, including storage, labeling, training, and reporting of incidents.

By implementing robust protocols for the handling and storage of hazardous materials, ambulatory care facilities can minimize risks and ensure a safe environment for patients and staff. Executives, administrators, managers, and safety coordinators must prioritize these protocols as part of their overall safety strategy to achieve and maintain compliance with TJC regulations and life safety compliance.

Security Measures for Patient and Staff Safety

In ambulatory care settings, ensuring the safety and security of patients and staff is of utmost importance. With the rise of workplace violence and other security threats, it is essential to implement comprehensive security measures that can prevent and respond to potential risks effectively.

Access Control Systems

One of the primary security measures is the installation of access control systems. These systems restrict entry to authorized personnel only, preventing unauthorized access to sensitive areas such as medication storage rooms, patient records, and financial offices. Access control can be achieved through various means, including key cards, biometric scanners, or keypad codes.

Surveillance Cameras

Surveillance cameras serve as both a deterrent to potential wrongdoers and a means of monitoring the facility for any suspicious activity. Cameras should be strategically placed in high-traffic areas, entry and exit points, and parking lots. Footage from these cameras should be regularly reviewed and stored securely in case it is needed for investigative purposes.

Security Personnel

Employing trained security personnel provides an additional layer of protection. Security officers can conduct regular patrols, manage access control points, and respond quickly to incidents. They also play a crucial role in enforcing facility policies, such as visitor check-ins and restricted area access.

Emergency Communication Systems

Effective communication is vital during a security incident. Ambulatory care facilities should have emergency communication systems in place, such as panic buttons or intercoms, that allow staff to alert security personnel or local law enforcement immediately.

Violence Prevention Training

Training staff on violence prevention and de-escalation techniques is essential. This training should cover how to recognize warning signs of potential violence, strategies for diffusing tense situations, and protocols for reporting and responding to threats or assaults.

Incident Response Protocols

Clear incident response protocols should be established and communicated to all staff members. These protocols outline the steps to take in the event of a security breach, active shooter situation, or other emergencies. Regular drills should be conducted to ensure staff are familiar with these procedures.

Collaboration with Law Enforcement

Establishing a relationship with local law enforcement agencies can enhance the security measures in place. Collaboration can include sharing facility layouts, conducting joint training exercises, and developing coordinated response plans for potential security incidents.

By implementing these security measures, ambulatory care facilities can create a safer environment for patients and staff. It is the responsibility of healthcare executives, administrators, managers, and safety coordinators to ensure that these measures are in place, regularly reviewed, and updated as necessary to adapt to evolving security challenges.

Security measures for patient and staff safety are not just about preventing incidents but also about creating a sense of safety and well-being within the facility. When patients and staff feel secure, it contributes to a more positive healthcare experience and a more productive work environment.

Security measures are an integral part of the overall safety strategy in ambulatory care settings. By prioritizing these measures and staying vigilant, healthcare facilities can protect their patients, staff, and assets while maintaining a welcoming atmosphere for those seeking care.

Accessibility and Accommodations for Patients with Disabilities

Ensuring accessibility and accommodations for patients with disabilities is a fundamental aspect of patient care in ambulatory care settings. It is not only a legal requirement under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) but also a moral imperative to provide equitable healthcare services to all individuals, regardless of their physical or cognitive abilities.

Physical Accessibility

Physical accessibility is a key consideration when designing or renovating ambulatory care facilities. This includes providing barrier-free access to the building, with ramps, automatic doors, and wide hallways that can accommodate wheelchairs and other mobility aids. Exam rooms, restrooms, and waiting areas should also be designed with accessibility in mind, ensuring that patients with disabilities can navigate the space comfortably and safely.

Accessible Medical Equipment

Medical equipment must be accessible to patients with disabilities. This includes adjustable exam tables, weight scales that can accommodate wheelchairs, and imaging equipment that can be easily accessed without requiring patients to transfer from their mobility aids. Staff should be trained in the proper use of this equipment to ensure that patients receive the care they need without unnecessary discomfort or risk of injury.

Communication Accommodations

Effective communication is essential in healthcare settings, and accommodations must be made for patients with hearing, vision, or speech impairments. This may involve providing sign language interpreters, written materials in large print or Braille, and assistive listening devices. Staff should be aware of these accommodations and prepared to facilitate communication with all patients.

Staff Training and Awareness

Staff training is crucial in creating an inclusive environment for patients with disabilities. Training should cover disability awareness, appropriate interaction techniques, and the use of assistive devices. Staff should also be familiar with the facility’s policies and procedures related to accommodating patients with disabilities, ensuring that these individuals receive respectful and competent care.

Emergency Evacuation Considerations

In the event of an emergency, ambulatory care facilities must have evacuation procedures that account for the needs of patients with disabilities. This includes identifying patients who may require assistance during an evacuation and having the necessary equipment and trained personnel available to ensure their safe exit from the building.

Regulatory Compliance

Compliance with ADA standards and other regulations related to accessibility is not only a legal requirement but also a reflection of the facility’s commitment to patient-centered care. Regular audits and assessments should be conducted to identify any areas where improvements can be made, and corrective actions should be implemented promptly.

Accessibility and accommodations for patients with disabilities are integral to providing high-quality care in ambulatory care settings. By addressing physical accessibility, providing accessible medical equipment, ensuring effective communication, training staff, considering emergency evacuation needs, and maintaining regulatory compliance, healthcare executives, administrators, managers, and safety coordinators can create an environment where all patients have equal access to healthcare services.

It is important to remember that accessibility is not a one-time effort but an ongoing commitment to inclusivity and patient-centered care. As technology advances and our understanding of disabilities evolves, ambulatory care facilities must continue to adapt and improve their accommodations to meet the diverse needs of their patient population.

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Regulatory Compliance and Accreditation Requirements

Regulatory compliance and accreditation requirements are critical components of operating ambulatory care settings. These standards ensure that healthcare facilities provide safe, high-quality care and maintain a level of excellence that patients and their families can trust. The Joint Commission (TJC) is one of the most prominent accrediting bodies in healthcare, setting rigorous standards for patient safety, quality improvement, and organizational management.

Understanding TJC Standards

The Joint Commission’s standards are designed to help healthcare organizations continuously improve their performance and patient care. They cover a wide range of areas, including infection control, medication management, environment of care, and patient rights. Compliance with these standards is not optional; it is a requirement for accreditation and, in many cases, for receiving reimbursement from insurance providers, including Medicare and Medicaid.

The Accreditation Process

The accreditation process involves a thorough evaluation of the healthcare facility’s policies, procedures, and performance. TJC surveyors conduct on-site surveys to assess compliance with standards, identify areas for improvement, and provide guidance on best practices. The survey process is collaborative, with the goal of helping organizations enhance their care delivery rather than merely pointing out deficiencies.

Continuous Compliance and Quality Improvement

Maintaining compliance with TJC standards is an ongoing effort that requires constant vigilance and a commitment to quality improvement. Healthcare facilities must regularly review their policies and procedures, conduct internal audits, and engage in performance improvement initiatives. This proactive approach not only ensures compliance but also fosters a culture of safety and excellence within the organization.

Life Safety Compliance

Life safety compliance is another crucial aspect of regulatory requirements. It encompasses fire safety measures, emergency preparedness, medical equipment safety, hazardous material handling, and security protocols. Compliance with life safety codes is essential for protecting patients, staff, and visitors from potential harm and ensuring a safe environment for care delivery.

Staff Education and Training

Staff education and training are integral to achieving and maintaining compliance with TJC regulations. Employees at all levels must be knowledgeable about the standards that pertain to their roles and responsibilities. Ongoing education programs, regular updates on regulatory changes, and participation in drills and exercises are necessary to keep staff informed and prepared.

Documentation and Record Keeping

Accurate documentation and record-keeping are essential for demonstrating compliance during TJC surveys. Healthcare facilities must maintain detailed records of policies, procedures, training sessions, quality improvement initiatives, and any incidents or adverse events. These records serve as evidence of the organization’s commitment to meeting regulatory requirements and providing high-quality care.

Engaging Leadership and Governance

Leadership involvement is critical in driving compliance efforts within healthcare organizations. Executives, administrators, managers, and governing bodies must prioritize regulatory compliance as a strategic objective. They should allocate resources, set clear expectations, and hold staff accountable for adhering to TJC standards and life safety codes.

Regulatory compliance and accreditation requirements are not merely checkboxes to be ticked off; they are fundamental to the mission of providing safe, effective, and high-quality healthcare services. By embracing these requirements as part of their organizational culture, ambulatory care settings can ensure that they meet the needs of their patients while upholding the highest standards of care.


  • What are the life safety drawing requirements for ambulatory care facilities?


  • Ambulatory care facilities must have accurate and up-to-date life safety drawings that depict the layout of the building, including exits, fire protection systems, and other safety features. These drawings are essential for emergency planning, identifying potential hazards, and ensuring compliance with TJC regulations.


  • What are some common life safety features in ambulatory care settings?


  • Common life safety features in ambulatory care settings include fire alarm systems, sprinkler systems, emergency lighting, fire-rated doors, fire extinguishers, and evacuation plans. These features are designed to protect patients, staff, and visitors in the event of a fire or other emergency.


  • How often should life safety features be inspected and tested in ambulatory care facilities?


  • Life safety features in ambulatory care facilities should be inspected and tested regularly to ensure they are functioning properly. The frequency of inspections and testing may vary depending on local regulations, but typically include annual inspections of fire alarm systems, sprinkler systems, and emergency lighting, as well as periodic inspections of fire extinguishers and fire-rated doors.


  • What steps can ambulatory care facilities take to address life safety compliance?


  • Ambulatory care facilities can take several steps to address life safety compliance. This includes conducting regular inspections and testing of life safety features, ensuring staff are trained in emergency procedures, maintaining accurate and up-to-date life safety drawings, implementing fire prevention measures, and regularly reviewing and updating emergency response plans.


  • How does compliance with TJC regulations and life safety requirements impact accreditation for ambulatory care facilities?


  • Compliance with TJC regulations and life safety requirements is essential for maintaining accreditation for ambulatory care facilities. The Joint Commission (TJC) assesses compliance with these regulations during accreditation surveys. Failure to comply with life safety requirements can result in citations, penalties, and potential loss of accreditation, which can have significant financial and reputational consequences for the facility.