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Lazy days of autumn: CMS does emergency management (cue applause)!

I suppose you could accuse me of being a little lazy in this week’s offering, but I really want you to focus closely on what the CMS surveyors are instructed to ask for in the Emergency Management Interpretive Guidelines (more on those here; seems like forever ago), so I’ve done a bit of a regulatory reduction by pulling out the non-hospital elements (I still think they could have done a better job with sorting this out for the individual programs) and then pulling out the Survey Procedures piece—that’s really where the rubber meets the road in terms of how this is going to be surveyed, at least at the front end of the survey process.

I suspect (and we only have all of recorded history to fall back on for this) that as surveyors become more comfortable with the process, they may go a little off-topic from time to time (surprise, surprise, surprise!), but I think this is useful from a starting point. As I have maintained right along, I really believe that you folks have your arms around this, even to the point of shifting interpretations. This is the stuff that they’ve been instructed to ask for, so I think this is the stuff that you should verify is in place (and, really, I think you’ll find you’re in very good shape). There’s a fair amount of ground to cover, so I will leave you to it—until next week!

BTW, I purposely didn’t identify which of the specific pieces of the Final Rule apply to each set of Survey Procedures. If there is a hue and cry, I will be happy to do so (or you can make your own—it might be worth it to tie these across to the requirements), but I think these are the pieces to worry about, without the language of bureaucracy making a mess of things. Just sayin’…

Survey Procedures

  • Interview the facility leadership and ask him/her/them to describe the facility’s emergency preparedness program.
  • Ask to see the facility’s written policy and documentation on the emergency preparedness program.
  • For hospitals and critical access hospitals (CAH) only: Verify the hospital’s or CAH’s program was developed based on an all-hazards approach by asking their leadership to describe how the facility used an all-hazards approach when developing its program.

Survey Procedures

  • Verify the facility has an emergency preparedness plan by asking to see a copy of the plan.
  • Ask facility leadership to identify the hazards (e.g., natural, man-made, facility, geographic, etc.) that were identified in the facility’s risk assessment and how the risk assessment was conducted.
  • Review the plan to verify it contains all of the required elements.
  • Verify that the plan is reviewed and updated annually by looking for documentation of the date of the review and updates that were made to the plan based on the review.

 

Survey Procedures

  • Ask to see the written documentation of the facility’s risk assessments and associated strategies.
  • Interview the facility leadership and ask which hazards (e.g., natural, man-made, facility, geographic) were included in the facility’s risk assessment, why they were included and how the risk assessment was conducted.
  • Verify the risk assessment is based on an all-hazards approach specific to the geographic location of the facility and encompasses potential hazards.

Survey Procedures

Interview leadership and ask them to describe the following:

  • The facility’s patient populations that would be at risk during an emergency event
  • Strategies the facility (except for an ASC, hospice, PACE organization, HHA, CORF, CMHC, RHC, FQHC and end stage renal disease (ESRD) facility) has put in place to address the needs of at-risk or vulnerable patient populations
  • Services the facility would be able to provide during an emergency
  • How the facility plans to continue operations during an emergency
  • Delegations of authority and succession plans

Verify that all of the above are included in the written emergency plan.

Survey Procedures

Interview facility leadership and ask them to describe their process for ensuring cooperation and collaboration with local, tribal, regional, state, and federal emergency preparedness officials’ efforts to ensure an integrated response during a disaster or emergency situation.

  • Ask for documentation of the facility’s efforts to contact such officials and, when applicable, its participation in collaborative and cooperative planning efforts.
  • For ESRD facilities, ask to see documentation that the ESRD facility contacted the local public health and emergency management agency public official at least annually to confirm that the agency is aware of the ESRD facility’s needs in the event of an emergency and know how to contact the agencies in the event of an emergency.

Survey Procedures

Review the written policies and procedures which address the facility’s emergency plan and verify the following:

  • Policies and procedures were developed based on the facility- and community-based risk assessment and communication plan, utilizing an all-hazards approach.
  • Ask to see documentation that verifies the policies and procedures have been reviewed and updated on an annual basis.

Survey Procedures

  • Verify the emergency plan includes policies and procedures for the provision of subsistence needs including, but not limited to, food, water and pharmaceutical supplies for patients and staff by reviewing the plan.
  • Verify the emergency plan includes policies and procedures to ensure adequate alternate energy sources necessary to maintain:

o Temperatures to protect patient health and safety and for the safe and sanitary storage of provisions;

o Emergency lighting; and,

o Fire detection, extinguishing, and alarm systems.

  • Verify the emergency plan includes policies and procedures to provide for sewage and waste disposal.

 

Survey Procedures

  • Ask staff to describe and/or demonstrate the tracking system used to document locations of patients and staff.
  • Verify that the tracking system is documented as part of the facilities’ emergency plan policies and procedures.

 

Survey Procedures

  • Review the emergency plan to verify it includes policies and procedures for safe evacuation from the facility and that it includes all of the required elements.
  • When surveying an RHC or FQHC, verify that exit signs are placed in the appropriate locations to facilitate a safe evacuation.

 

Survey Procedures

  • Verify the emergency plan includes policies and procedures for how it will provide a means to shelter in place for patients, staff and volunteers who remain in a facility.
  • Review the policies and procedures for sheltering in place and evaluate if they aligned with the facility’s emergency plan and risk assessment.

 

Survey Procedures

  • Ask to see a copy of the policies and procedures that documents the medical record documentation system the facility has developed to preserves patient (or potential and actual donor for OPOs) information, protects confidentiality of patient (or potential and actual donor for OPOs) information, and secures and maintains availability of records.

 

Survey Procedures

  • Verify the facility has included policies and procedures for the use of volunteers and other staffing strategies in its emergency plan.

 

Survey Procedures

  • Ask to see copies of the arrangements and/or any agreements the facility has with other facilities to receive patients in the event the facility is not able to care for them during an emergency.
  • Ask facility leadership to explain the arrangements in place for transportation in the event of an evacuation.

 

Survey Procedures

  • Verify the facility has included policies and procedures in its emergency plan describing the facility’s role in providing care and treatment (except for RNHCI, for care only) at alternate care sites under an 1135 waiver.

 

Survey Procedures

  • Verify that the facility has a written communication plan by asking to see the plan.
  • Ask to see evidence that the plan has been reviewed (and updated as necessary) on an annual basis.

 

Survey Procedures

  • Verify that all required contacts are included in the communication plan by asking to see a list of the contacts with their contact information.
  • Verify that all contact information has been reviewed and updated at least annually by asking to see evidence of the annual review.

 

Survey Procedures

  • Verify that all required contacts are included in the communication plan by asking to see a list of the contacts with their contact information.
  • Verify that all contact information has been reviewed and updated at least annually by asking to see evidence of the annual review.

 

Survey Procedures

  • Verify the communication plan includes primary and alternate means for communicating with facility staff, federal, state, tribal, regional and local emergency management agencies by reviewing the communication plan.
  • Ask to see the communications equipment or communication systems listed in the plan.

 

Survey Procedures

  • Verify the communication plan includes a method for sharing information and medical (or for RNHCIs only, care) documentation for patients under the facility’s care, as necessary, with other health (or care for RNHCIs) providers to maintain the continuity of care by reviewing the communication plan.

o For RNCHIs, verify that the method for sharing patient information is based on a requirement for the written election statement made by the patient or his or her legal representative.

  • Verify the facility has developed policies and procedures that address the means the facility will use to release patient information to include the general condition and location of patients, by reviewing the communication plan

 

Survey Procedures

  • Verify the communication plan includes a means of providing information about the facility’s needs, and its ability to provide assistance, to the authority having jurisdiction, the Incident Command Center, or designee by reviewing the communication plan.
  • For hospitals, CAHs, RNHCIs, inpatient hospices, PRTFs, LTC facilities, and ICF/IIDs, also verify if the communication plan includes a means of providing information about their occupancy.

 

Survey Procedures

  • Verify that the facility has a written training and testing (and for ESRD facilities, a patient orientation) program that meets the requirements of the regulation.
  • Verify the program has been reviewed and updated on, at least, an annual basis by asking for documentation of the annual review as well as any updates made.
  • Verify that ICF/IID emergency plans also meet the requirements for evacuation drills and training at §483.470(i).

 

Survey Procedures

  • Ask for copies of the facility’s initial emergency preparedness training and annual emergency preparedness training offerings.
  • Interview various staff and ask questions regarding the facility’s initial and annual training course, to verify staff knowledge of emergency procedures.
  • Review a sample of staff training files to verify staff have received initial and annual emergency preparedness training.

 

Survey Procedures

  • Ask to see documentation of the annual tabletop and full scale exercises (which may include, but is not limited to, the exercise plan, the AAR, and any additional documentation used by the facility to support the exercise.
  • Ask to see the documentation of the facility’s efforts to identify a full-scale community based exercise if they did not participate in one (i.e., date and personnel and agencies contacted and the reasons for the inability to participate in a community based exercise).
  • Request documentation of the facility’s analysis and response and how the facility updated its emergency program based on this analysis.

 

Survey Procedures

  • Verify that the hospital, CAH, and LTC facility has the required emergency and standby power systems to meet the requirements of the facility’s emergency plan and corresponding policies and procedures
  • Review the emergency plan for “shelter in place” and evacuation plans. Based on those plans, does the facility have emergency power systems or plans in place to maintain safe operations while sheltering in place?
  • For hospitals, CAHs, and LTC facilities which are under construction or have existing buildings being renovated, verify the facility has a written plan to relocate the EPSS by the time construction is completed

For hospitals, CAHs, and LTC facilities with generators:

  • For new construction that takes place between November 15, 2016 and is completed by November 15, 2017, verify the generator is located and installed in accordance with NFPA 110 and NFPA 99 when a new structure is built or when an existing structure or building is renovated.  The applicability of both NFPA 110 and NFPA 99 addresses only new, altered, renovated or modified generator locations.
  • Verify that the hospitals, CAHs and LTC facilities with an onsite fuel source maintains it in accordance with NFPA 110 for their generator, and have a plan for how to keep the generator operational during an emergency, unless they plan to evacuate.

 

Survey Procedures

  • Verify whether or not the facility has opted to be part of its healthcare system’s unified and integrated emergency preparedness program. Verify that they are by asking to see documentation of its inclusion in the program.
  • Ask to see documentation that verifies the facility within the system was actively involved in the development of the unified emergency preparedness program.
  • Ask to see documentation that verifies the facility was actively involved in the annual reviews of the program requirements and any program updates.
  • Ask to see a copy of the entire integrated and unified emergency preparedness program and all required components (emergency plan, policies and procedures, communication plan, training and testing program).
  • Ask facility leadership to describe how the unified and integrated emergency preparedness program is updated based on changes within the healthcare system such as when facilities enter or leave the system.

 

To close out this week’s bloggy goodness, Diagnostic Imaging just published a piece on emergency preparedness for radiology departments that I think is worth checking out: http://www.diagnosticimaging.com/practice-management/emergency-preparedness-radiology . Imaging services are such a critical element of care giving (not to mention one of the largest financial investment areas of any healthcare organization) that a little extra attention on keeping things running when the world is falling (literally or figuratively) down around your ears. I think we can make the case that integration of all hospital services is likely to be a key element of preparedness evaluation in the future—this is definitely worthy of your consideration.

Any world that I’m welcome to…

Sometimes a confluence of happenings makes me really question the legitimacy of coincidence. For example, it can’t possibly be coincidence that our friends in Chicago use the backdrop of September to tell us how poorly we are faring relative to compliance in the management of the physical environment. Yet, like clockwork, September brings the “drop” of the most frequently cited standards (MFCS) during the first half of the year. (I did look back a few years to validate my pre-autumnal angst—they waited until October to publish the MFCSs in 2012.) And, for a really, really, really long time, the physical environment continues to maintain its hegemony in the hierarchy of findings.

In years past, we’ve analyzed and dissected the living heck out of the individual standards, looking at the EPs likely to be driving the numbers, etc. Anybody wishing to revisit any of those halcyon days, you can find the (not quite complete) collection here:

Anyhoooo… I really don’t see a lot of changes in what’s being found, though I will tell you that there has been a precipitous increase in the number of organizations that are “feeling the lash.” Last year’s most frequently cited standard, which deals with various and sundry conditions in the care environment (you might know it as EC.02.06.01, or perhaps not), was found in about 62% of organizations surveyed. This year, the percentage has increased to 68% of organizations surveyed, but that number was only good enough for 5th place—the most frequently cited standard (the one that deals with all that fire alarm and suppression system documentation*) was identified in a whopping 86% of the hospitals surveyed!

I think it’s important, at this point, to keep in mind that this is the first year of a “one and done” approach to surveying, with the decommissioning of “C” or rate-based performance elements. I don’t know that I have encountered too many places with absolutely perfect documentation across all the various inspection, testing, and maintenance activities relating to fire alarm and suppression system documentation. I also don’t know that I’ve been to too many places where the odd fire extinguisher in an offsite building didn’t get missed at some point over the course of a year, particularly if the landlord is responsible for the monthly inspections. Face it, unless you have the capacity to do all this stuff yourself (and I’m pretty sure I haven’t run into anyone who has unlimited resources), the folks charged with making this happen often don’t have an appreciation for what a missed fire extinguisher, missed smoke detector, etc., means to our sanity and our peace of mind.

As I’ve been saying right along, with the exceptions being management of the surgical environment and the management of behavioral health patients, what they are finding is not anything close to what I would consider big-ticket items. I refrain from calling the findings minutiae—while in many ways that is what they are, the impact on folks’ organizations is anything but minute. If the devil is indeed in the details, then someone wicked must have passed their CORI check for a survey job…

Relative to last week’s rant regarding policies; first a shout-out of thanks to Roger Hood, who tried to post on the website (and was unable to ) regarding the CMS surveyor Emergency Preparedness survey tool as a potential source for the TJC policy requirement. (It’s an Excel spreadsheet, which you can find here, in the downloads menu near the bottom of the page: Surveyor Tool – EP Tags.) While I “see” that a lot of the sections invoke “policies and procedures,” I still believe that you can set things up with the Emergency Plan (Operations / Response / Preparedness—maybe one day everyone will use the same middle for this) as your primary organizational “policy” and then manage everything else as procedures. I suppose to one degree or another, it’s something of an exercise in semantics, but I do know that managing policies can be a royal pain in the tuchus, so limiting the documents you have to manage as a “policies” seems to make more sense to me. But that may just be me being me…

*Update (9/7/17): Quick clarification (I could play the head cold card, but I should have picked up on this); the most frequently cited standard deals with fire suppression system stuff—gray fibrous material (GFM) on sprinkler heads, 18-inch storage, missing escutcheons, etc. While I suppose there is some documentation aspect to this, my characterization was a few bricks shy of a full load. Mea maxima culpa!

Thoughts and prayers for Houston; plus, thoughts on required ‘policies’

First off, thoughts and prayers going out to the embattled folks in Texas; I do a fair amount of work in Texas, including the Houston area, and while I have absolute confidence in folks’ ability to respond to and recover from catastrophic events, I also know that this is going to be a very tough next little while for that part of the world. Hurricane Harvey will likely fade from the headlines, but the impact will linger past the news cycle, so don’t forget about these folks in the weeks to come. Thanks!

As I was casting about for a subject for this week’s missive, I happened upon a news item in Health Facilities Management This Week (HFMTW) that outlines some of the pending changes to the ambulatory care / office-based surgery medication management standards and the potential further impact of those changes on some of the EC performance elements in those environments. The changes are pretty much focused on emergency power as a function of being able to provide medication dispensing and refrigeration during emergencies.

Now, I have absolutely no issue with making provisions for the safe physical management of medications during power outages, etc.—it is a critical part of the delivery of safe and appropriate care to patients in any setting, and the more we can do to prepare for any outages, etc., the greater the likelihood of continuity of services if something does happen. What really caught my eye in the TJC blog entry cited in HFMTW (you can find the blog here) is something about half-way down the page titled “Emergency Back-Up Policies.”

At the outset of this discussion, I will tell you that, in most instances, I am no big fan of “policies.” In my mind, mostly what a policy represents is an opportunity to get into trouble for not following said policy. So, the question I wrestle with is whether we need to be mandated to have specific policies in order to appropriately manage our facilities, including preparing to respond to emergencies. For example, I am not entirely certain that a policy is going to make the difference in how well hospitals in the Houston area are responding to Hurricane Harvey (at the time of this writing, there are hospitals facing evacuation), though I would be happy to hear otherwise. I just have a hard time believing that having a policy is the answer to life’s problems; I am absolutely fine with requiring hospitals and other healthcare organizations to have a process in place to ensure appropriate management of medications during power outages, etc.—and I’m reasonably confident that those processes already exist in most, if not all, applicable environments.

I don’t know, maybe some folks do need to be told what to do, but I can’t help but think that those folks are fairly limited in number. And the blog even indicates that “there is no specific direction on the content of the policy”, but publishing this blog is going to force the issue during survey. I don’t know, when you look at the Conditions of Participation, etc., there are really very few policies that are required. It seems a bit odd to think that introducing new requirements for policy will somehow address some heretofore unresolved issue (or something). This one just doesn’t feel “right” to me…

Reefing a sail at the edge of the world…

What to do, what to do, what to do…

A couple of CMS-related items for your consideration this week, both of which appear to be rather user-friendly toward accredited organizations. (Why do I have this nagging feeling that this is going to result in some sort of ugly backlash for hospitals?)

Back in May, we discussed the plans CMS had for requiring accreditation organizations (AOs) to make survey results public, and it appears that, upon what I can only imagine was intense review and consideration, the CMS-ers have elected to pull back from that strategy. The decision, according to news sources, is based on the sum and substance of a portion of Section 1865 of the Social Security Act, which states:

(b) The Secretary may not disclose any accreditation survey (other than a survey with respect to a home health agency) made and released to the Secretary by the American Osteopathic Association or any other national accreditation body, of an entity accredited by such body, except that the Secretary may disclose such a survey and information related to such a survey to the extent such survey and information relate to an enforcement action taken by the Secretary.

So, that pretty much brings that whole thing to a screeching halt—nice work of whoever tracked that one down. Every once in a while, law and statute work in favor of the little folk. So, we Lilliputians salute whomever tracked that one down—woohoo!

In other CMS news, the Feds issued a clarification relative to the annual inspection of smoke barrier doors (turns out the LSC does not specifically require this for smoke doors in healthcare occupancies) as well as delaying the drop-dead date for initial compliance with the requirements relating to the annual inspection of fire doors. January 1, 2018 is the new date. If you haven’t gotten around to completing the fire door inspection, I would heartily recommend you do so as soon as you can—more on that in a moment. So, good news on two fed fronts—it’s almost like Christmas in August! But I do have a couple of caveats…

I am aware of 2017 surveys since July in which findings were issued because the inspection process had not been completed, and, based on past knowledge, etc., it is unlikely that those findings would be “removable” based on the extended initial compliance date. (CMS strongly indicates that once a survey finding is issued in a report, the finding should stay, even if there was compliance at the time of survey.) So hopefully this will not cause too much heartburn for folks.

The other piece of this is performance element #2 under the first standard in the Life Safety chapter. (This performance element is not based on anything specifically required by the LSC or the Conditions of Participation—yet another instance of our Chicagoan friends increasing the degree of difficulty for ensuring compliance without having a whole mess of statutory support, but I digress.) The requirement therein is for organizations to perform a building assessment to determine compliance with the Life Safety chapter—and this is very, very important—in time frames defined by the hospital. I will freely admit that this one didn’t really jump out at me until recently, and my best advice is to get going with defining the time frame for doing those building assessments; it kind of “smells” like a combination of a Building Maintenance Program (BMP) and Focused Standards Assessment (FSA), so this might not be that big a deal, though I think I would encourage you to make very sure that you clearly indicate the completion of this process, even if you are using the FSA process as the framework for doing so. In fact, that might be one way to go about it—the building assessment to determine compliance with the Life Safety chapter will be completed as a function of the annual FSA process. I can’t imagine that TJC would “buy” anything less than a triennial frequency, but the performance element does not specify, so maybe, just maybe…

We hold these truths…

In the wake of the high-rise fire in London a few weeks ago, those of you with high-rise facilities are probably going to experience some intensified attentions from your local fire folks (it’s already started in Houston). Any time there is a catastrophic fire with loss of life, it tends to result in an escalation in the interests of the various AHJ’s overseeing fire safety. While I suspect that your facilities are not at risk to the extent the conditions at the Grenfell Tower appear to have been, it is very likely that your locals are going to want to come out and kick the tires a little more swiftly/demonstrably than they have in the past. And, since we are responsible for a fair number of folks who are not (or at least less than) capable of getting themselves out in a fire, I think there is a very strong possibility that scrutiny will extend to non-high-rise facilities as well. I think we can say for pretty much certain that the regulatory folks probably didn’t miss this as a news story, and it’s not a very big leap to want to apply any lessons learned to how their areas of responsibility would fare under intensified scrutiny.

As a related aside, one of the challenges that I periodically face in my consulting engagements is the pushback of “it’s always been like this and we’ve never been cited” or something similar. My experience has been that a lot of times, the difference between a good survey and a not-so-good survey can be the surveyor taking a left turn instead of a right, etc. We have certainly covered the subject of imperfect buildings and how to find them (they are, after all, everywhere you look), so I won’t belabor the point, but this probably means that the focus on the physical environment is going to continue apace, if not (and I shudder at the thought) more so. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, folks—let’s get those sleeves rolled up!

Finally, as a head’s up, there’s going to be a webinar in August hosted by HC Info on strategies for meeting the CMS guidance (almost makes it sound helpful, doesn’t it) relative to the management of legionella risk that we covered a few weeks back. (Apparently space is limited, so you might want to get right on this: http://hcinfo.com/legionella-compliance.)

Something (nothing official, just an intense feeling) tells me that this is likely going to be a significant survey focus over the next little while, so I’m in favor of gathering as much expert information, etc. as possible. Again, while I have no reason to think that most folks are not appropriately managing these types of risks, I also know that the survey expectation bar appears to have been raised to an almost impossible-to-attain level. To echo the motto of the Boy Scouts—Be Prepared!

Horrors beyond contemplation

It is impossible to capture, or even comment on, the events that transpired at the Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center in New York at the end of last month with anything less than abject horror. There have been lots of news stories about the various events that contributed to what happened, so I will let you investigate the causative factors on your own. But having checked out the available information, I can’t help but feel almost powerless when it comes to being able to provide any sort of guidance relative to the compliance aspects of preparing for such an event.

I think I can say, without much fear of contradiction, that this is likely to create an additional focal point for TJC surveys this year (so, keeping count, we have ligature risks; management of environmental conditions including temperature, humidity, air pressure relationships; intermediate- and high-level disinfection activities; workplace violence, including active shooter). But I still keep coming back to Sentinel Event Alert #45, “Preventing violence in the health care setting,” and I keep pondering the import of that one word: preventing.

Much as we have discussed in the past with a whole bunch of topics, at what point can we say that we have reduced the risk associated with X, Y and/or Z to the full extent possible? It would be an amazing thing to be able to put in place measures and strategies that could actually prevent something (really anything) bad from happening, but I have yet to encounter many instances in which prevention is actually achieved. Do we work towards that as a goal every moment of every day? Absolutely! But I don’t know how you “prevent” what happened at Bronx-Lebanon.

Until we have sufficiently sophisticated early detection for armed persons, aberrant behavior, etc. (we can’t have metal detectors at the front door of everyone’s home, can’t do a behavioral health assessment at everyone’s front door either), the purpose of looking at this is to ensure that there is an appropriate response, be it de-escalation or run, hide, fight. From what I gather, the response at Bronx-Lebanon was in keeping with appropriate levels of preparedness. As is usually the case with human beings, I suspect that there will be valuable lessons learned in reviewing what happened, but the fact of the matter is that this could have been so, so much worse.

At any rate, we know this is likely to be a focus during survey (information from a survey just this past week indicates a very significant focus on the management of violent events), and I think one of the most important preparation activities is to share information with the healthcare safety community. To that end, I wanted to alert you to an opportunity to do just that: next week, on Thursday, July 20, 2017, HCPro will present a webinar, “Emergency Preparedness for SNFs: How to Plan for, Respond to, and Recover From an Armed Intruder/Active Shooter Event.” While the title indicates a focus on skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), the general concepts are very much applicable to all healthcare environments and, truthfully, couldn’t be more timely.

I’ve worked in healthcare long enough to recall a time when this level of violence occurred in environments other than health care, but I think we have to operate under the thought that it is only a matter of time before our organizations come face-to-face with the reality of 21st Century existence. Although I wish it were otherwise, not focusing on preparing is no longer an option.

If brevity is the soul of wit…

Hope everyone enjoyed a festive and (most importantly) safe Independence Day—with any luck, today (July 5) does not mark the end of summer (as some do say) so much as it marks the beginning of the end of spring (up here in the Northeast, spring was loath to depart, but it does seem that pre-autumn weather has finally made a commitment to spending some time in the northern hemisphere).

I was looking recently at past blog posts for a reference to the CMS stance on law enforcement interactions with patients as a function of restraints and patient rights—always a fun topic—and I noted that the posts used to be a mite briefer than tends to be the case of late. (You can be the judge of whether my decline in brevity has left me soulless or witless.) I absolutely recognize that there’s been a lot of stuff to cover over the past 18 months with the firestorms of compliance that swept the healthcare environment, which has (no doubt) promoted some of the “volume” of bloggery. But it has caused me to wonder whether I am consuming the compliance elephant in sufficiently small bites to be of use to you folks out there in the field. As near as I can tell, the purpose of this whole thing (as much as I enjoy having a place to pontificate) is to provide information and thoughts on what is happening at the moment to you, my faithful audience of safety folk. And (as near as I can tell) it never hurts to ask one’s audience whether this works for you—please feel free to give me an e-dope slap if you think the “Space” has gone intergalactic in a less-than-useful way. At any rate, I am going to experiment with smaller bites of information in the coming weeks so you’ll have more time for other things—perhaps outdoors…

As far as news goes, things are relatively quiet as we observe the anniversary of CMS’s adoption of the 2012 Life Safety Code. Hopefully you all have done your NFPA 99 risk assessments; polished off those door inspections and are speeding towards the completion of activities relating to initial compliance with the Emergency Preparedness Final Rule. Health Facilities Management This Week discussed some prepublication EC/LS standards relating to the testing of emergency lighting systems; inspection and testing of piped medical gas and vacuum systems; and updating pertinent NFPA code numbers. The pre-pub stuff is aimed at behavioral health care, laboratory, nursing care center, and office based surgery accreditation programs. You can find the details here: https://www.jointcommission.org/prepublication_standards_%E2%80%93_standards_revisions_to_environment_of_care_and_life_safety_chapters_related_to_life_safety_code_update_/

(I guess some of those links are about as brief as I am…)

Thanks, as always, for tuning in—I really appreciate having you all out there at the other end of the interweb…see you next week!

Is this the survey we really want?

Moving on to the type of pain that can only be inflicted at the federal level, a couple of things that might require an increase in your intake of acid-reducing supplements…

As it appears that CMS doesn’t love that dirty water (and yes, my friends, that is a shameless local plug, but it is also a pretty awesome tune), now their attentions are turning to the management of aerosolizing and other such water systems as a function of Legionella prevention. Now, this is certainly not a new issue with which to wrestle, which likely means that the aim of this whole thing, as indicated in the above notification—“Facilities must develop and adhere to policies and procedures that inhibit microbial growth in building water systems that reduce the risk of growth and spread of Legionella and other opportunistic pathogens in water”—is something with which we are abundantly familiar. But I will admit to having been curious about the implied prevalence in healthcare facilities as that’s the type of stuff that typically is pretty newsworthy, so I did a quick web search of “Legionella outbreaks in US hospital.” I was able to piece together some information indicating that hospitals are not doing a perfect job on this front, but the numbers are really kind of small in terms of cases that can be verifiably traced back to hospitals. When you think about it, the waters could be a bit muddy as Legionella patients that are very sick are probably going to show up at your front door and there may be a delay in diagnosis as it may not be definitively evident that that’s what you’re dealing with. At any rate, sounds like a zero-tolerance stance is going to be, but the Survey & Certification letter does spell out the instructions for surveyors:

Surveyors will review policies, procedures, and reports documenting water management implementation results to verify that facilities:

 

  • Conduct a facility risk assessment to identify where Legionella and other opportunistic waterborne pathogens (e.g., Pseudomonas, Acinetobacter, Burkholderia, Stenotrophomonas, nontuberculous mycobacteria, and fungi) could grow and spread in the facility water system.
  • Implement a water management program that considers the ASHRAE industry standard and the CDC toolkit, and includes control measures such as physical controls, temperature management, disinfectant level control, visual inspections, and environmental testing for pathogens.
  • Specify testing protocols and acceptable ranges for control measures, and document the results of testing and corrective actions taken when control limits are not maintained.

I have little doubt that you folks already have most, if not all, of this stuff in place, but it might not be a bad idea to go back and review what you do have to make sure that everything is in order. And if you are interested in some of the additional information (including some numbers) available, the following links should be useful:

Moving on to the world of emergency management, during the recent webinar hosted by CMS to cover the Emergency Preparedness final rule, one of the critical (at that time, more or less unanswered) questions revolved around whether we could expect some Interpretive Guidelines (basically, instructions for surveyors in how to make their assessments) for the EP Final Rule. And to what to my wondering eyes should appear, but those very same Interpretive Guidelines.  I will feely admit that the setup of the document is rather confusing as there are a lot of different types of providers for which the Final Rule applies and not all the requirements apply to all of the providers, etc., so it is a bit of a jumble, to say the least. That said, while I don’t think that I am sufficiently well-versed with the specific EM requirements of the various and sundry accreditation organizations (HFAP, DNV, CIHQ, etc.), I can say that those of you using TJC for deemed status purposes should be in pretty good shape as it does appear that one of the early iterations of the TJC EM standards was used in devising the Final Rule, so the concepts are pretty familiar.  A couple of things to keep in mind in terms of how the CMS “take” might skew a little differently are these:

 

  • You want to make sure you have a fairly detailed Continuity of Operations Plan (CoOP); this was a hot button topic back in the immediately post-9/11 days, but it’s kind of languished a bit in the hierarchy of emergency response. While the various and sundry performance elements in the TJC EM chapter pretty much add up to the CoOP, as a federal agency, it is likely that CMS will be looking for something closer to the FEMA model (information about which you can find here), so if you have a CoOP and haven’t dusted it off in a while, it would probably be useful to give it the once over before things start heating up in November…
  • As a function of the CoOP, you also want to pay close attention to the delegation of authority during an emergency, primarily, but not exclusively the plan of succession during an emergency (I found the following information useful and a little irreverent—a mix of which I am quite fond). It does no good at all for an organization to be leaderless in an emergency—a succession plan will help keep the party going.
  • Finally, another (formerly) hot button is the alternate care site (ACS), which also appears to be a focus of the final rule; the efficacy of this as a strategy has been subject to some debate over the years, but I think this one’s going to be a source of interest as they start to roll out the Interpretive Guidelines. At least at the moment, I think the key component of this whole thing is to have a really clear understanding (might be worth setting up a checklist, if you have not already) of what you need to have in place to make appropriate use if whatever space you might be choosing. I suspect that making sure that you have a solid evaluation of any possible ACS in the mix: remember, you’re going to be taking care of “their” (CMS’) patients, so you’d better make sure that you are doing so in an appropriate environment.

And then came the last days of May…

There’s been a ton of activity the past few weeks on both the Joint Commission and CMS sides of the equation (and if you are starting to feel like the ref in a heavyweight prize fight who keeps getting in the line of fire, yup, that’d be you!) with lots of information coming fast and furious. Some of it helpful (well, as helpful as things are likely to be), some perhaps less so than would be desirable (we can have all the expectations we want as to how we’d ask for things to be “shared,” but I’m not thinking that the “sharers” are contemplating the end users with much of this stuff). This week we’ll joust on TJC stuff (the June issue of Perspectives and an article published towards the end of May) and turn our attentions (just in time for the solstice—yippee!) to the CMS stuff (emergency preparedness and legionella, a match made in DC) next week.

Turning first to Perspectives, this month’s Clarifications & Expectations column deals with means of egress—still one of the more frequently cited standards, though it’s not hogging all the limelight like back in the early days of compliance. There are some anticipated changes to reflect the intricacies of the 2012 Life Safety Code® (LSC), including some renumbering of performance elements, but, for the most part, the basic tenets are still in place. People have to have a reliable means of exiting the (really, any) building in an emergency and part of that reliability revolves around managing the environment. So, we have the time-honored concept of cluttah (that’s the New English version), which has gained some flexibility over time to include crash carts, wheeled equipment, including chemotherapy carts and isolation carts that are being used for current patients, transport equipment, including wheelchairs and stretchers/gurneys (whichever is the term you know and love), and patient lift equipment. There is also an exception for fixed (securely attached to the wall or floor) furnishings in corridors as long as here is full smoke detector coverage or the furniture is in direct supervision of staff.

Also, we’ll be seeing some additional granularity when it comes to exiting in general: each floor of a building having two remote exits; every corridor providing access to at least two approved exits without passing through any intervening rooms or spaces other than corridors or lobbies, etc. Nothing particularly earth-shattering on that count. We’ll also be dealing with some additional guidance relative to suites, particularly separations of the suites from other areas and subdividing the areas within the suite—jolly good fun!

Finally, Clarifications & Expectations covers the pesky subject of illumination, particularly as a function of reliability and visibility, so head on over to the June Perspectives for some proper illuminative ruminations.

A couple of weeks back (May 24, to be exact), TJC unveiled some clarifications. I think they’re of moderate interest as a group, with one being particularly useful, one being somewhat curious and the other two falling somewhere in the middle:

ED occupancy classifications: This has been out in the world for a bit and, presumably, any angst relating to how one might classify one’s ED has dissipated, unless, of course, one had the temerity to classify the ED as a business occupancy—the residual pain from that will probably linger for a bit. Also (and I freely confess that I’m not at all sure about this one), is there a benefit of maintaining a suite designation when the ED is an ambulatory healthcare occupancy? As suites do not feature in the Ambulatory Occupancy chapters of the LSC, is it even possible to do so? Hmmmm…

Annual inspection of fire and smoke doors: No surprise here, with the possible exception of not requiring corridor doors and office doors (no combustibles) to be included. Not sure how that will fly with the CMSers…

Rated fire doors in lesser or non-rated barriers: I know this occurs with a fair degree of frequency, but the amount of attention this is receiving makes me wonder if there is a “gotcha” lurking somewhere in the language of the, particularly the general concept of “existing fire protection features obvious to the public.” I’m not really sure how far that can go and, given the general level of obliviousness (obliviosity?) of the general public, this one just makes me shake my head…

Fire drill times: I think this one has some value because the “spread” of fire drill times has resulted in a fair number of findings, though the clarification language doesn’t necessarily get you all the way there (I think I would have provided an example just to be on the safe side). What the clarification says is that a fire drill conducted no closer than one hour apart would be acceptable…there should not be a pattern of drills being conducted one hour apart. Where this crops up during survey is, for example, say all your third shift drills in 2016 were conducted in the range of 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. (Q1 – 0520; Q2 – 0559; Q3 – 0530; Q4 – 0540), that would be a finding, based on the need for the drills to be conducted under varying circumstances. Now, I think that anyone who’s worked in healthcare and been responsible for scheduling fire drills would tell you (at least I certainly would) that nobody remembers from quarter to quarter what time the last fire drill was conducted (and if they think about it at all, they’re quite sure that you “just” did a fire drill, like last week and don’t you understand how disruptive this is, etc.) If you can’t tell, third shift fire drills were never my favorite thing to do, though it beats being responsible for snow removal…

So that’s the Joint Commission side of the equation (if you can truly call it an equation). Next time: CMS!

Come on, I Lean: Do you Lean?

As you are no doubt aware by now, there’s been a wee bit of a shift in this forum away from all things Joint Commission, as the CMSers seem more inclined to assert themselves in the accreditation market place. I personally have had a lot of work this year in follow-up activities relating to CMS visits and one of the structural/organizational vulnerabilities/opportunities that seem to be cropping with some regularity are those relating to the integration of the physical environment program into organizational Quality Assessment/Performance Improvement (hereafter referred to as QAPI, pronounced “Kwoppee”—I think you’re going to find that you’ll be hearing that term a lot in the coming years/decades) activities. This very much goes back to a topic we discussed back in January (it’s funny, when I started looking for the link to this story, I could have sworn that we had covered this within the last month) relative to making sure that organizational leadership is abundantly familiar with any issues that are (more or less) “stuck” in your safety committee. There is no “sin” in admitting that there are or may be improvement opportunities for which traction in making those improvements is a little slippery—you have to have a means of escalating things to point where reasonable traction is possible. So, from a regulatory standpoint, this all falls under §482.21 Condition of Participation: Quality Assessment and Performance Improvement, which includes the rejoinder: “The hospital must develop, implement, and maintain an effective, ongoing, hospital-wide, data-driven quality assessment and performance improvement program. The hospital’s governing body must ensure that the program reflects the complexity of the hospital’s organization and services; involves all hospital departments and services (including those services furnished under contract or arrangement); and focuses on indicators related to improved health outcomes and the prevention and reduction of medical errors.”

Now, I can tell you that this is a very big deal, particularly when it comes to the reporting up of data, occurrence reporting, etc.—even from the likes of our little world of physical environment safety and related topics. And sometimes you have to be willing to throw some light on those process areas that are not performing as you would want them to; improvement doesn’t typically happen in a vacuum and that absence of vacuum tends to require a fair amount of conversation/collaboration (with some resultant caterwauling) in order to make things happen/get things done.

One QAPI topic you will probably be hearing about (if you have not already) is Lean methodology, which pretty much embraces the general concept of reducing “waste” while still delivering positive service outcomes by focusing on what the customer wants (you can find some useful highlights here; the books are worth a look—perhaps your local library can hook you up). One organization that appears to be endorsing the Lean methodology is that kooky bunch in Chicago and while the article focuses on behavioral health, I think there is enough practical information to be worth a look. And, since we know from past experience that TJC tends to adopt a more pervasive stance when it comes to these types of things, I think it would be very useful (at the very least for those of you using TJC for accreditation) to be conversant in Lean. It’s probably going to rock your boat at some point—life preservers mandatory!