What’s Behind Joint Commission Move to Not Accept COLA Labs?

DURING THE NEXT TWO YEARS, a substantial number of hospitals and healthcare facilities will need to respond to The Joint Commission’s (TJC) decision to no longer recognize CLIA accreditations issued by COLA in “TJC-accredited facilities.”

In the 30-year history of the current Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) regulation, it is believed that there is no precedent for one of the organizations granted deeming status by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to cease to recognize the laboratory accreditations of another deeming organizations. 

New Policy Effective on Jan. 1

Hundreds of TJC-accredited organizations have at least one laboratory site currently accredited to CLIA by COLA. TJC’s new policy took effect on Jan. 1, and to keep their TJC accredition, those facilities will need to select another deeming organization for CLIA accreditation.

The Dark Report contacted The Joint Commission to ask the reasons why TJC officials decided to take this action. The public communications office of TJC provided the following statement last week, which is reproduced in full:

The Joint Commission decided to end its cooperative agreement with the Commission on Office Laboratory Accreditation (COLA). Beginning Jan. 1, 2023, COLA is no longer accepted by The Joint Commission as an approved laboratory accreditor within a Joint Commission accredited facility. 

After thorough review and careful consideration of COLA’s laboratory accreditation program, in keeping with the terms of our cooperative agreement, The Joint Commission determined that continuing our recognition of COLA did not best support our mission for quality and safety within Joint Commission accredited facilities.

If an organization currently utilizes COLA as its laboratory accreditor (for one or more CLIA certificates), and the organization is accredited under any Joint Commission accreditation program, transition of its laboratory accreditor will be required.

We understand that this is an impactful change and are extending a two-year transition period to allow organizations ample time to make this change. 

It is known that the deeming organizations have agreements with each other. TJC references such an agreement with COLA in its communications with healthcare facilities about the decision to no longer recognize CLIA accreditations issued by COLA. 

Areas of Concern?

It is not known why TJC is taking this action at this time. Lab leaders familiar with the system of CLIA lab accreditation surmise that it could be because TJC may have concerns about COLA’s accreditation reviews. That notion is supported by a Joint Commission statement that COLA’s program “did not best support our mission for quality and safety.”

Another theory is that competition for additional lab accreditation clients is increasing between all the deeming organizations and this move is related to that market dynamic. 

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