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Fire and smoke: CMS clarifies which doors must be inspected annually

After pushback, federal officials backed away from their claim that smoke barrier doors must be inspected and tested annually.

More than three weeks after a well-publicized compliance deadline passed, CMS announced Friday that the deadline would be pushed back nearly six months, giving facilities until New Year’s Day 2018 to comply with an annual testing requirement for certain doors.

David Wright, director of the CMS Survey and Certification Group, made the announcement in a memo to state survey agency directors. He acknowledged that there had been a fair amount of confusion concerning the change, and he offered some pretty consequential clarifications that could affect whether the new requirement applies to your facility at all.

“[C]onsidering the level of reported misunderstanding of this requirement, CMS has extended the compliance date for this requirement by six months,” Wright wrote.

Within the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) 2012 Life Safety Code® (LSC), which CMS adopted last year, there is a requirement that fire doors and smoke barrier doors be tested annually. Officials with CMS had taken the position that the new requirement applies to healthcare occupancies; that position, however, was met with pushback.

A petition objecting to the CMS position was discussed at length in June by members of the NFPA Healthcare Interpretations Task Force (HITF), says Brad Keyes, CHSP, owner of Keyes Life Safety Compliance. That petition objected to the notion that the LSC specifically requires annual inspections of smoke barrier doors in healthcare occupancies.

“The HITF members did discuss the issue and agreed that healthcare occupancies were exempt from complying with section 7.2.1.15.2 … because the healthcare occupancies did not specifically require compliance with that section,” Keyes says in an email.

The committee decided to table its decision on the matter to give CMS an opportunity to review its position, as it did, Keyes says.

“I am pleased that the system worked in favor for the many hospitals that are certified by the Federal agency,” he adds.

Although the LSC does include provisions requiring annual inspections of smoke barrier doors and fire doors alike, section 7.2.1.15.1 states that these standards apply only where required by Chapters 11–43. Since the chapters governing healthcare occupancies make no direct reference to Section 7.2.1.15.1, the door inspection provisions do not apply to healthcare occupancies, Wright acknowledged in his memo.

Based on that conclusion, Wright spells out a few key takeaways:

  1. Fire doors. In healthcare occupancies, all fire door assemblies must be inspected and tested annually in healthcare occupancies, based on section 8.3.3.1 of the 2012 LSC, which applies to all occupancies.
  2. Smoke barrier doors. Non-rated doors (including smoke barrier doors and corridor doors to patient care rooms) aren’t subject to the annual inspection and testing requirements, but they “should be routinely inspected as part of the facility maintenance program.”
  3. Deadline. The compliance deadline has been pushed back from July 6, 2017, to January 1, 2018.
  4. Citations. Any LSC deficiencies related to annual fire door inspections should be cited under K211—Means of Egress—General.

But what if a healthcare organization was already cited at some point during the three-week gap between the original compliance date and the clarifying memo (July 6–28) for a failure to conduct an annual test of its smoke doors? Multiple CMS representatives did not respond to requests for an answer. Keyes says CMS has been a stickler in the past, holding that a finding cannot be removed once it is written on a survey report.

“There was an accreditation organization [AO] that used to allow findings to be removed from their survey report if the hospital could demonstrate compliance at the time of the survey,” Keyes says. “CMS has said that the AOs may no longer remove findings, even if the hospital was compliant at the time of the survey.”

The Joint Commission stated in the July edition of Perspectives that it requires annual testing for fire door and smoke door assemblies alike, despite acknowledging that the healthcare occupancy chapters don’t cite section 7.2.1.15 specifically. (To support the requirement, The Joint Commission noted that Section 18/19.2.2.2.1 references section 7.2.1, and cited a belief that the annual tests are beneficial.)

Keyes adds a word of caution: “The AOs are not locked into complying with everything CMS says or does. The AOs may have standards that exceed what CMS requires.”

That means the guidance in Wright’s memo might not trickle down to the AOs and state agencies that conduct surveys at your facilities, especially considering how widely advertised the original compliance date has been.

“So, I suspect many of the AOs will keep the start date at July 5, 2017, since they are already enforcing that,” Keyes says.

With that in mind, he recommends that all healthcare facilities have their fire doors tested as soon as possible, rather than waiting until the new deadline—because another authority having jurisdiction might keep to the stricter timeline.

Joint Commission revises Medication Management EPs

The Joint Commission has revised Medication Management elements of performance (EP) for several of its programs. The changes will go into effect on January 1, 2018 and will impact hospitals, ambulatory care, behavioral care, home care, nursing care centers, critical access hospitals, and office-based practices accredited by The Joint Commission. The revisions will require organizations to:

•    Record the date and time of any medication administered in the patient’s clinical record.
•    Implement a policy to provide emergency backup for essential medication dispensing equipment and for essential refrigeration for medications.
•    Have a written policy addressing the control of medications between when they are received by a provider and given to a patient. Those policies should now include what to do for the “wasting of medications.”
•    Implement a policy describing the types of medication overrides for automatic dispensing cabinets that will be reviewed for appropriateness and the frequency.

The revisions vary depending on the program.

Joint Commission: Half of blood transfusions are unnecessary and cost millions  

Hospitals could save more than $1 million per year by eliminating unnecessary red blood cell (RBC) transfusions, according to a new study. Blood transfusions are the most frequently performed hospital procedure in the country and costs $1,000 per unit of blood. Transfusions also come with potential health risks like allergic reactions, fever, and iron overload.

A study in the August 2017 issue of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety found that RBC transfusions have increased 134% between 1997 to 2011. However, 50% of them may be unnecessary, costing each hospital an average $1 million per year.

“The cost and risks of RBC transfusions, along with evidence of overuse, suggest that improving transfusion practices is a key opportunity for health systems to improve both the quality and value of patient care,” the study’s authors wrote. “Excessive transfusions have been identified as an improvement priority in the Choosing Wisely lists of wasteful practices by six professional organizations, including obstetric, hematology, critical care, and anesthesiology societies, and the Society of Hospital Medicine (SHM), and reducing excessive transfusion is the subject of an SHM-Society for the Advancement of Blood Management improvement guide. The Joint Commission, the AABB, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have recognized the importance of improving blood management.”

The study looked at ways to reduce unnecessary blood transfusions as well; these include educational tools, real-time clinical decision supports to reduce unnecessary blood products and costs, providing information at point-of-care to inform decisions about a patient’s care, and enhancing health systems’ computerized provider order entry system. By using these methods, test hospitals were able to decrease RBC transfusions per 1,000 patient days from 90-78% during the study to 72.1% following the interventions.

(TBT) Diffusing disruptive physician behavior

Disruptive behavior can come in a variety of forms, from yelling and inappropriate language to physical altercations in the worst-case scenario.

A report released in May by QuantiaMD indicated that disruptive physician behavior is still an issue in hospitals around the country. The report surveyed more than 840 physicians and physician leaders at QuantiaMD and the American College of Physician Executives. Survey results showed that 70% of those physicians said disruptive physician behavior occurs at least once per month and 11% said it occurs daily. An overwhelming­ 90% of respondents also indicated that disruptive physicians ultimately affect patient care, and 21% reported experiencing adverse clinical events that could be ­attributed to disruptive physician behavior.

Although patient safety is the primary concern in any healthcare facility, disruptive behavior must be dealt with regardless of who it affects, says Dean White, DDS, MS, a medical staff consultant in Granbury, TX.

“Disruptive behavior, particularly repetitive disruptive behavior, doesn’t necessarily have to be tied to patient safety or quality,” White says. “In other words, it’s just unacceptable. You don’t have to have a bad outcome because of the behavior to make it wrong. It’s not the outcomes we’re looking at here, it’s the behavior.”

The ultimate decision on how best to deal with or punish a disruptive physician usually falls to medical staff leaders and hospital administrators.

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Uniqueness is not unique

Editor’s Note: This is a free Briefings on Accreditation and Quality article from yesteryear! If you like it, check out more of our work covering quality and accreditation! 

With all the regulatory and reimbursement changes occurring in our industry at an ever-increasing rate, one thing is for certain: Your organization is not unique.

When speaking to organizations, I often hear things like, “Well, we don’t have the resources that the university hospital has” from community hospitals and then the university hospitals will say things like, “We aren’t as nimble as those community hospitals.” It’s frustrating and ultimately self-defeating. It creates a semi-plausible excuse that permits low performance, and it must be stopped.

I see it in everything from patient experience, core measures, throughput, and profitability. “We are unique,” “Our patients are sicker,” “Our payer mix is bad,” “We have more psych patients,” “We have more beds,” and the list goes on and on.

The reality is that all hospitals are facing the same issues at the same time and those that are top performing do not allow themselves to take this mindset. Simply put, none of our organizations is unique.

Imagine if we took that same mentality when it came to treating patients. If clinicians second-guessed every cardiac rhythm that came across a monitor, think of the conversations between cardiologists. “Maybe ventricular fibrillation is good for this patient. I mean it’s not like he looks like the last guy who had it.” It is an absurd example that makes my point.

Hospitals can argue about the metrics and the systems in place for a millennium, doctors can debate the efficacy of the data points and whether things are “good measure” and that is healthy. However, the reality is just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean you are allowed to not do it or succumb to the idea that it is an impossible goal based solely on the fact that “your hospital is different.”

The metrics in healthcare are to create as level a playing field as there can be while trying to ensure high-quality care at reasonable or decreasing costs. Is it perfect? No, it is not, but it’s a start and part of the calling of being in medicine.

Clinicians don’t come to work expecting to provide bad care. In all my experience, I have never met a clinician that had that motive. The excuses come when compared to similar organizations and not performing well. The excuses come from everywhere rather than focusing on the core issue of poor performance.

Top-performing entities move through the Kübler-Ross 5 stages of grief faster and focus on the acceptance. Once that happens and the organization gets past its uniqueness, true organizational change can begin.

When dealing with an issue that causes your organization to lament how different it is to the standard, try these techniques. Allow the leaders an unadulterated complain fest. It’s a period of time not to last more than a day where complaining and feeling sorry for yourself is encouraged, get it all out on the table. It’s unfair, they don’t like us, and so on. Get all the negativity out in one moment of time. Grieving is natural and needs to happen. People in organizations need to feel like they are being heard and empathized with.

Next, require all the leaders to come up with short action plans that will move the organization forward. It does not have to be a total change in how you do business, but it starts the momentum going in the correct direction. This is not easy, and requires a substantial amount of effort. It shifts the energy in a positive direction and is the first essential step toward making a positive difference. Finally, reward and recognize people and departments making the gains, and the ones that are putting forth a strong effort.

The data is never perfect. There will always be concerns about percentiles, and comparative measures for everything we do in healthcare. Accepting it and focusing on the care each patient receives every time is the single most powerful curative tool an organization has in its armory. Doing the right thing, the right way, for the right reasons will always be correct, regardless of what the metric is.

Editor’s note: Patrick Pianezza, MHA, has worked with the Studer Group and Johns Hopkins Hospital. In his most recent role, Pianezza’s work drove organizational performance in Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems. to an all-time hospital best in the 90th percentile. He can be reached at ppianezza@gmail.com.

CMS issues Legionella reduction memo

On June 2, CMS issued a new memo to surveyors on the importance of reducing cases of Legionella infections. Accredited facilities should double check their waterborne pathogens compliance, as surveyors will likely pay more attention to it in upcoming surveys.

Legionellosis is comprised of a sometimes fatal form of pneumonia called LD as well as Pontiac fever. The bacterium grows in the parts of hospital water systems that are continually wet and is spread through inhalation of aerosolized droplets of contaminated water. Legionellosis poses a particular risk to patients older than 50, who smoke or have chronic lung or immunosuppression conditions. Approximately 9% of reported legionellosis cases are fatal.

Badly maintained water systems have been linked to the 286% increase in legionellosis between 2000-2014. There were 5,000 cases of it reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2014 alone. About 19% of outbreaks were associated with long-term care facilities and 15% with hospitals. Just a few items that can spread the contamination include:

•    Decorative fountains
•    Shower heads and hoses
•    Electronic and manual faucets
•    Hot and cold water storage tanks
•    Water heaters and filters
•    Pipes, valves, and fittings
•    Eyewash stations
•    Ice machines
•    Cooling towers
•    Medical devices (e.g., CPAP machines, hydrotherapy equipment, bronchoscopes, heater-cooler units)

“Healthcare facilities are expected to comply with CMS requirements to protect the health and safety of its patients,” the agency writes in its memo. “Those facilities unable to demonstrate measures to minimize the risk of LD are at risk of citation for noncompliance with the CMS Conditions of Participation. Accrediting organizations will be surveying healthcare facilities deemed to participate in Medicare for compliance with the requirements listed in this memorandum, as well, and will cite noncompliance accordingly.”

The memo tells surveyors to review policies, procedures, and reports documenting water management implementation results to ensure facilities:

1.    Conduct a facility risk assessment to identify where Legionella and other waterborne pathogens could grow and spread in the facility water system.

2.    Implement a water management program that considers the ASHRAE industry standard and the CDC toolkit. The program should include control measures such as physical controls, temperature management, disinfectant level control, visual inspections, and environmental testing for pathogens.

3.    Specify testing protocols and acceptable ranges for control measures. Document the results of testing and corrective actions taken when control limits are not maintained.

The contents of this memo go into effect immediately.

TBT: Building a better self-reporting structure

Editor’s Note: The following is a free Briefings on Accreditation and Quality article from yesteryear! If you like it, check out more of our work covering quality and accreditation! 

Does your organization have a formalized process for debriefing after an adverse event? And if so, is it working? For many organizations, reporting of adverse events can be problematic, with challenges ranging from time management and inefficient processes to the age-old challenge of shame?reporting near misses and adverse events can be a challenge in an industry where everyone pursues the field to help, not hurt.

“Everyone wants to leave work happy and feel like they did a good job,” says Anngail Smith, VP of operations and risk management for CRG Medical, Inc., in Houston. “Someone once said that healthcare is the intersection of care and being able to hurt people. A client told me that healthcare is a courageous activity.”

Because healthcare rides along that fine line between safe care and risk of harm, the industry needs to build an environment where people are willing to report errors and near misses so that the industry as a whole can work on the problem without being afraid.

“I think the fear of hurting someone is always there,” says Douglas Dotan, president and CEO of CRG Medical. “The question is, are you willing to incorporate that into learning how to make your processes better?”

The pressures to report are staggering for providers, Dotan says. Personal liability, risks to reputation, job security, and even peer pressure can all come into play with the issue of reporting. But the industry needs physicians to speak up and identify hazards to patient safety, share their knowledge about near misses, and propose actions to improve the delivery of care. This requires a culture change to create an environment in which providers feel safe to talk about these things without putting themselves at risk.

“If there is something that really stresses caregivers out, we need to find a way to fix it, and we need to share that fix,” says Dotan. “That won’t happen if they’re afraid.”

This is not a new issue, Dotan points out. Donald Berwick’s Institute of Healthcare Improvement talked about these factors 15 years ago, Dotan notes, and yet most events which occur today have occurred in the past, and the latest reports state that the industry has well over 400,000 preventable deaths in healthcare every year.

“That’s about 1,000 deaths that occur every day from preventable medical errors,” says Dotan.

And the contributing factors leading up to these preventable errors occur all the time. The same situation may occur 200 or 300 times before a sentinel event occurs, leading to hundreds of thousands of dollars spent in litigation and reparations because it wasn’t prevented the first 300 times, Dotan says.

This comes down to continual process improvement, he says.

“What we’ve been working on is identifying those hazards and unsafe conditions and putting an easier way for people to communicate in place,” says Dotan. “You need to have a way of documenting and giving feedback. If I continuously give you information I think is important to act on and leadership doesn’t act on it, I will stop communicating that information. So when future problems arise, they will not be reported.”

An open communication system will help overcome the fear of reporting, Smith says.

“Are you good at your job? If you did it badly would you want to tell someone? We spend more time doing our jobs than anything else. For an inexperienced person, if they make a mistake, they might report it. ‘I am new at this; I will make mistakes,’ ” says Smith. “But if the experienced person makes a mistake, they’d think they would be embarrassed to talk about it.”

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Joint Commission issues another warning about improperly cleaned medical devices

For the second time in three years, The Joint Commission has released a Quick Safety issue on the topic of improperly sterilized or high-level disinfection (HLD) equipment and devices. The accreditor writes that despite bringing the problem to light in 2014, there’s an increase in cases of medical devices not being cleaned properly.

“Immediate threat to life (ITL) declarations related to improperly sterilized or high-level disinfected (HLD) equipment have increased significantly from 2013-2016,” wrote Lisa Waldowski, DNP, PNP, CIC, Joint Commission infection control specialist, in a blog post. “In 2016, 74% of all ITL declarations from The Joint Commission were related to improperly sterilized or HLD equipment. As reports of sterilization and HLD-related issues continue to be received by our Office of Quality and Patient Safety, our surveyors also are seeing it firsthand in hospitals, ambulatory care sites and other healthcare settings across the country.”

According to Quick Safety Issue 33, noncompliance with standard IC.02.02.01 (which deals with sterilization) has been on the rise since 2009 in Joint Commission-accredited hospitals, critical access hospitals, ambulatory centers, and office-based surgery facilities.

There are several risks tied to improper reprocessing such as infection and outbreaks, loss of accreditation, litigation, negative publicity, and lost revenue. A prime example of this occurred during the 2015-2016 outbreaks, when it was discovered that the design of the duodenoscopes could prevent them from being properly sterilized.

There are several factors that are causing this rise in noncompliance, according to The Joint Commission. These include:

•    The incorrect assumption that the risk of infection to patients is low or nonexistent
•    Staff either don’t know how to properly sterilize or HLD equipment or they knowingly chose not to follow proper procedures
•    Lack of leadership oversight and the belief that sterilization or HLD is a low priority
•    A culture that discourages the reporting of safety risks
•    No dedicated staff person to oversee the proper sterilization or HLD of equipment
•    Facility design or space issues prevent proper sterilization or HLD of equipment
•    Lack of monitoring or documentation of sterilization or HLD of equipment

“Healthcare organizations need to prioritize improving sterilization and HLD efforts year-round and well before a survey occurs to best protect patients,” says Waldowski. “Together, we can work to change news headlines from reporting on sterilization or HLD-related outbreaks to touting reductions in outbreaks through quality improvement efforts.”

Study: SSI rates jump nearly 30% in the summer

A new study published in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology found that the changing of the seasons affects the rate of surgical site infections (SSI) in hospitals. If a patient is operated on when it’s over 90°F outside, there is a 28.9 % higher chance of contracting an SSI than if the temperature is less than 40°F, according to the study. The researchers say that SSI rates increased by 2% for every 5-degree increase in average monthly temperature.

“We show that seasonality of surgical site infections is strongly associated with average monthly temperature. As temperatures rise, risk increases,” wrote Philip Polgreen, MD, senior author of the study. “However, the odds of any one person getting an infection are still small, and due to the limitations of our data, we still do not know which particular surgeries or patients are at more risk from higher temperature.”

While the study doesn’t list any possible causes for the temperature/SSI link, it notes that the results could spur more research into this correlation.

However, it’s been known for years that PPE and handwashing compliance falls during warm months. There are other summer safety considerations that one should take into consideration, too.

First set of SAFER Matrix data is online

The Joint Commission released the first set of data collected from its new Survey Analysis for Evaluating Risk™ (SAFER™) scoring methodology this May. The SAFER matrix was first rolled out to psychiatric hospitals as part of their accreditation surveys. It has been since implemented for all Joint Commission-accredited programs.

The accreditor made a chart of the most frequently cited compliance challenges for deemed psychiatric hospitals between Aug. 1, 2016 to Feb. 17, 2017.

The Joint Commission writes that it plans to keep analyzing aggregate SAFER data going forward to:

  • Continuously improve consistency
  • Identify potential EPs for revision
  • Assist in identifying areas of high risk noted within each program