UC San Diego Health Awarded Advanced Certification in Spine Surgery

Region's only academic medical center first in California to receive advanced certification granted to organizations with data-driven care processes, patient safeguards and demonstrated high quality patient outcomes

UC San Diego Health has earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for Advanced Certification in Spine Surgery (ACSS) by meeting or exceeding the highest level of national performance standards. The Gold Seal represents a symbol of quality that reflects a health care organization’s demonstrated ability to implement result-driven processes and advance patient outcomes.

UC San Diego Health is the first health organization in California to receive the advanced certification.

“As the region’s only academic medical center, we proactively seek advanced certifications in specialty care that confirm our commitment to providing extraordinary care for all of our patients,” said Patty Maysent, CEO, UC San Diego Health. “This designation celebrates and recognizes UC San Diego Health as a premiere destination for routine or complex spine surgery cases.”

To be eligible for ACSS, organizations must implement evidence-based care, clinical practice guidelines and participate in the American Spine Registry, a national quality improvement registry for spine care. Additionally, organizations need to collect performance measurement data on surgical site infection rates, new neurological deficits, unplanned return visits to the operating room, and pre-operative and post-operative patient reported outcomes.

“This certification affirms the presence of highly reliable processes successfully implemented by a multidisciplinary team of expert specialists, whose organized focus provides the best level of care for each patient,” said Alexander Khalessi, MD, MBA, neurosurgeon and chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery at UC San Diego Health.

The certification was achieved through an interdisciplinary collaboration between the Department of Neurological Surgery and the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at UC San Diego Health.

“More than 100 people came together as part of our spine care teams to prepare for this certification process,” said Susan Bukata, MD, orthopedic surgeon and chair of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at UC San Diego Health. “The team-centered approach ensured coordination of best practices and brought diverse perspectives and expertise together to provide the highest quality of care to patients with spine disorders.”

The multidisciplinary team included specialists from orthopedics, neurosurgery, medicine, nursing, anesthesia, pharmacy, rehabilitative services, case management and sterile processing.

Offered in collaboration with the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, the certification is granted to organizations with data-driven care processes, patient safeguards and demonstrated high quality patient outcomes with low complication profiles.

“This certification demonstrates our institution is strongly positioned to hit the mark for every patient, every time,” said Khalessi. “We also meticulously track outcomes and follow-up to allow for continuous improvement that elevates the standard of care in the field.”

UC San Diego Health underwent a rigorous, unannounced onsite review in September 2022. During the visit, a Joint Commission reviewer evaluated compliance with related certification standards, including anonymized patient cases, surgical outcomes, quality data collection methods and a review of care pathway processes.

Joint Commission standards are developed in consultation with health care experts and providers, measurement experts and patients. The reviewer also conducted onsite observations and interviews with team members.

“As a private accreditor, The Joint Commission surveys health care organizations to protect the public by identifying deficiencies in care and working with those organizations to correct them as quickly and sustainably as possible,” says Mark Pelletier, RN, MS, chief operating officer, Accreditation and Certification Operations, and chief nursing executive, The Joint Commission. “We commend UC San Diego Health for its continuous quality improvement efforts in patient safety and quality of care.”

UC San Diego Health is the regional referral center for complex spine reconstructions and a national leader in minimally invasive spine surgery, as well as other surgical and non-surgical treatments for spinal disorders.

In the 2022-2022 U.S. News & World Report “Best Hospitals” survey, UC San Diego Health was ranked the #1 hospital system in San Diego and #5 in California. The hospital system was ranked 21st for neurology and neurosurgery care and 39th for orthopedics, among the nation’s top 50 programs out of more than 4,500 hospitals nationwide.


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