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Emergency planning: Put the O in, take the M out, and shake it all about

How interesting: One of the big changes made in The Joint Commission’s emergency management standards [1] is the need for an emergency operations plan (EOP). I recognize this change happened a little while ago in terms of the endless cycle of standards revisions, but I’ve been waiting for something (Godot, as it turns out) that explains in expectations as the result of these titular changes.

Yet if you look at the commission’s Survey Activity Guide for 2009 [2], it refers to the document to be reviewed as the “emergency management plan.” So basically, from a compliance perspective, it appears that the EOP is just the emergency management plan (EMP) with “management” taken out and “operations” put in. How cool is that?

I’m being a wee bit flippant — could you tell?

But wait, there’s more! In looking at the internal Surveyor Survey Activity Guide for 2009 (that’s the version that the surveyors receive), one of the documents earmarked for review is the emergency operations plan (and nary a mention of the EMP). So what’s up with that? Curiouser and curiouser (or perhaps “confusing and confusing” is the better descriptor).

That said, I can’t help but think that The Joint Commission has done a less-than-helpful job of explaining how the requirements for the “new” EOP differ from the requirements for the “old” EMP. The applicable standards and EPs, after all, look very similar from old to new — everybody now, “Same it is ever was!”

This means in all likelihood the surveyors won’t understand the difference either, if there really is a difference). And instructing the surveyors to review a document (the EOP) and indicating to hospitals that another document will be reviewed (the EMP), I cannot but think that “confusing” will once again reign supreme.

Which leads me back to my thought that every time The Joint Commission changes the standards, hospitals (pretty much by default) become less well-prepared because they have to figure out what the changes mean. Change has come to America indeed!