The Value of AAHRPP Accreditation

by Anita Pascoe, MS, CIP, Project Coordinator at Intermountain Healthcare

PRIM&R is pleased to share a post from Anita Pascoe, MS, CIP, a member of the PRIM&R Blog Squad for the 2014 Advancing Ethical Research (AER) Conference. The PRIM&R Blog Squad is composed of PRIM&R members who will blog here, on Ampersand, about the conference to give our readers an inside peek of what’s happening December 4-7 in Baltimore, MD.

On Thursday, following a quick breakfast, I headed toward my first session at the 2014 AER Conference, a full day pre-conference program dedicated to accreditation process of the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs, Inc. (AAHRPP). AAHRPP, a nonprofit organization that accredits research organizations globally, works to strengthen human research protection programs (HRPPs), through accreditation, in order to foster ethically sound research. Recently, my institution, Intermountain Healthcare, has been considering whether AAHRPP accreditation is an option we should pursue, which is why this session was a perfect way for me to kick off my conference experience.

Elyse Summers, JD, the president and CEO of AAHRPP, started the program with a brief overview of AAHRPP’s organizational objectives, its accreditation standards, and the accreditation application and approval process. AAHRPP accreditation entails completing a comprehensive pre-application self-assessment, as well as undergoing a post-application onsite evaluation by AAHRPP team experts. The process is voluntary and peer-driven, and offers significant benefits to organizations that conduct human subject research. “It is a very collaborative process,” Ms. Summers commented, noting that AAHRPP site visitors often learn new ideas from applicant organizations.

AAHRPP’s approach is organized around the concept of creating institutional HRPPs, in which institutional review boards (IRBs) are a component of the HRPP, as opposed to the focal point of the organization’s efforts to protect research participants. AAHRPP accreditation is for the entire HRPP, not just for the IRB, and signifies that an organization has built the necessary infrastructure for a quality HRPP.

As the day progressed, I learned a lot about the process of how to develop an effective HRPP, how we can use the AAHRPP evaluation instrument as a tool in creating institutional HRPPs, and the importance of understanding who within an organization contributes to the HRPP.
According to AAHRPP’s website, more than 60% of US research-intensive universities and 65% of US medical schools are either AAHRPP accredited or have begun the process of obtaining accreditation. Numerous attendees in Thursday’s sessions were from already accredited organizations, so I heard many testimonials about the value of AAHRPP accreditation.

Bottom line? In my opinion, AAHRPP accreditation is advantageous for institutions that conduct human subject research activities. Accreditation indicates that the institution complies with established human research protections standards, has effective mechanisms to ensure compliance with current regulations, and promotes continuous quality assurance.