Accountability and accreditation in the Australian allied health context
Nancarrow, S & Clark, J 2003, 'Accountability and accreditation in the Australian allied health context', Practice Development in Health Care, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 33-47.
This paper examines the professional accreditation systems developed by five allied health associations in Australia. Professional accreditation is potentially a powerful tool because it can describe both the attributes of a health service provider and aspects of the quality of their care. This information is of value to patients, regulatory bodies and funding organizations to guide their health service decision making. However, the lack of consistency in the approaches used by the allied health disciplines means that the term 'accreditation' has a different value for each profession. Additionally, patient and purchaser preferences have received little consideration in the development of the accreditation systems. Thus, the ability of external purchasers, regulators or patients to use accreditation status to guide decision making is limited at best, and at worst risks devaluing the approach at an interdisciplinary level. In this paper we present the range of interpretations of professional accreditation adopted by the podiatry, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, dietetics and nutrition and social work associations in Australia. Based on the interdisciplinary variations we argue for the development of a consistent approach to professional accreditation standards and guidelines.