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Roll over Beethoven!

As we mark the passing of yet another (couple of) pop culture icon(s), I’m feeling somewhat reflective as I place fingers to keyboard (but only somewhat). As I reflect on the potential import of Sentinel Event Alert #57 and the essential role of leadership, one of the common themes that I can conjure up in this regard has a lot to do with the willingness/freedom of the “generic” Environment of Care/Safety program to air the organization’s safety-related (for lack of a better term—if you have a better one that’s not really PC, send it on) dirty laundry (kick ’em when they’re up, kick ’em when they’re down). I’ve seen a spate of folks getting into difficulties with CMS because they were not able to demonstrate/document the management of safety shortfalls as a function of reporting those shortfalls up to the top of their organization in a truly meaningful way. As safety professionals, you really can’t shy away from those difficult conversations with leadership—leaky roofs that are literally putting patients and staff at risk (unless you are doing incredibly vigorous inspections above the ceiling—or even under those pesky sinks); HVAC systems that are being tasked with providing environmental conditions for which the equipment was never designed; charging folks with conducting risk assessments in their areas…perhaps the impact of reduced humidity on surgical equipment. There’s a lot of possibilities—and a lot of possibility for you to feel the jackboots of an unhappy surveyor. One of the responsibilities of leaders, particularly mid-level leaders—and ain’t that all of us—is to work things through to the extent possible and then to fearlessly (not recklessly) escalate whatever the issue might be, to the top of the organization.

I was recently having a conversation with my sister about an unrelated topic when we started discussing the subtle (OK, maybe not so subtle) differences between two of my favorite “C” words: commitment and convenience. My rule of thumb is that convenience can never enter the safety equation at the expense of commitment (I suppose compliance works as well for this) and all too often I see (and I suspect you do, too) instances in which somebody did something they shouldn’t have because to do the right thing was less convenient than doing the wrong (or incorrect) thing. Just last week, I was in an MRI suite in which there were three (count ’em: 1, 2, 3) unsecured oxygen cylinders standing (and I do mean standing) in the MRI control right across the (open) door from the MRI. There was nobody around at the moment and I thought if there was a tremor of any magnitude (and I will say that I was in a place that is no stranger to the gyrations of the earth’s crust) and those puppies hit the deck, well, let’s just say that there would have a pretty expensive equipment replacement process in the not-too-distant future. The question I keep coming back to is this: who thinks that that is a good idea? I know that recent times have been a struggle relative to segregation of full and not full cylinders, but I thought we had really turned a corner on properly securing cylinders. These are the times that try a person’s soul: tell Tchaikovsky the news! Compliance ≠ Convenience…most of the time.

And now, batting cleanup…

Or, oh me of little faith…

Another somewhat hodgepodge-ish coverage of sundry and assorted niceties this week. For some reason, this week has resulted in a lot of ideas flying around in my noggin (I suspect you might have weeks like that too, from time to time), but I think there’s a sufficiently common theme for these to hang together. Hopefully some level of cogent thought will hold sway…

First up, a discussion about topics relating to cleaning, and by extension, cleanliness. Health Facilities Management recently published an article regarding a three-year study aimed at identifying ways of improving patient room cleaning (my philosophy on that is that we need to consider more than just the cleaning of patient rooms, but more on that in a bit). The article covers some of the process breakdowns observed during the study, and speaks to the inclusion of housekeeping staff in unit meetings, etc., to enhance the sense of the importance of their roles in the process of providing care to the patient by making sure the environment is clean. I think you folks know that my primary background is in the EVS (from the EVS world?) and I have never needed to be “sold” on the importance of the frontline housekeeping staff in supporting the care environment. I know from experience that it’s a tough job and I can tell you with absolute certainty that there is way more stuff in the typical patient room to clean than their used to be. (I only had to periodically dust off the abacus, etc.) The article provides some interesting data on the cleaning of various surfaces in the room, but I’ll let you see those for yourself. In looking at the data, it does make me ponder how much of a leap of faith it is to leave a restroom without having a paper towel (or some such) in hand to twist the ol’ door knob. I just can’t bring myself to stride right out without a thought in the world—but I see folks do that all the time and only about half of them wash their hands…

One of the things I’ve been seeing in survey country is a focus on what I will call the concept of the patient-ready room; this goes beyond the regimen of daily cleaning of surfaces, etc., and gets to the land of discharge cleaning, etc. I think one of the key conversations you can have in your organization is to figure out what a “patient-ready room” means and to start educating folks. Some things to consider:  making sure the waste containers are empty; making sure that everything in the room works (just as you would yip if you had a hotel room where stuff wasn’t working properly—or at least I hope you would yip); making sure there are no stained ceiling tiles, etc. Again, this room is going to be somebody’s home—it may only be for a day or so—but think about someone flat on their back and only having the TV and that stain on the ceiling to look at. And they’re probably not going to say anything while they’re staying with you (I suspect that most folks are just to amped up about being there to speak up much), but they may very well remember that ceiling tile if they get a satisfaction survey. And don’t get me started about schmutz on the floor or on the bed rails; I see it happen far too often and I don’t know if too many organizations that can’t do a little better with that.

As a final thought in this realm, I know a lot of folks have secured the areas under sinks to prevent storage, etc. If your organization prohibits under-sink storage, it’s probably the simplest solution to keeping them (whoever “them” might) out. But I ask you this: how often are you opening up those areas to see what’s going on? It seems like lately I’ve been running into a fair number of conditions bordering on Roquefort—or perhaps a Gorgonzola or Stilton. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean there isn’t something growing under those pesky sinks—and if the water intrusion isn’t enough to leak down below, you may have no reason to look. But I’m thinking you might want to think about thinking about setting that up as a process. Just sayin’…

Doo doo doo, lookin’ out my back (fire) door…

Something old and something new(ish): old rant, new requirement.

As we move ever onwards toward the close of our first year “under” the 2012 Life Safety Code® (talk about a brave new world), there was one item of deadline that I wanted to touch upon before it got too, too much further into the year. And that, my friends, is the requirement for an annual inspection of fire and smoke door assemblies—for those of you keeping track, this activity falls under the EOC chapter under the standard with all those other pesky life safety-related inspection, testing, and maintenance activities (don’t forget to make sure that your WRITTEN documentation of the door assembly inspection includes the appropriate NFPA standards reference—in this case, you have quite a few to track: NFPA 101-2012 for the general requirements; NFPA 80-2010 for the fire door assemblies; and, NFPA 105-2010 for the smoke door assemblies). Also, please, please, please make sure that the individual(s) conducting these activities can “demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the operating components of the door being tested” (if this sounds like it might be a competency that might need to be included in a position description and performance evaluation, I think you just might be barking up the correct tree). The testing is supposed to begin with a pre-test visual inspection, with the testing to include both sides of the opening. Also, if you are thinking that this is yet another task that will be well-served by having an inventory, by location, of the door assemblies, you would indeed be correct (to the best of my knowledge). As a caveat for this one, please also keep in mind that this would include shaft access doors, linen and trash chute—while not exactly endless, the list can be pretty extensive. At the moment, from all I can gather, fire-rated access panels are optional for inclusion, though I don’t know that I wouldn’t be inclined to have a risk assessment in one’s back pocket outlining the decision to include or not to include (that is the question!?!) the access panels in the program.

I’m thinking you will probably want to capture this as a recurring activity in your work order system, as well as developing a documentation form. Make sure the following items are covered in the inspection/testing activity:

 

  • No open holes or breaks in the surfaces of either the door or the frame
  • Door clearances are in compliance (no more than ¾ inch for fire doors; no more than 1 inch for corridor doors; no more than ¾ inch for smoke barrier doors in new buildings)
  • No unapproved protective plates greater than 16 inches from the bottom of the door
  • Making sure the latching hardware works properly
  • If the door has a coordinator, making sure that the inactive door leaf closes before the active leaf
  • Making sure meeting edge protection, gasketing, and edge seals (if they are required—depends on the door) are inspected to make sure they are in place and intact

 

I think the other piece of the equation here is that you need to keep in mind that “annual” is a minimum frequency for this activity; ultimately, the purpose of this whole exercise is to develop performance data that will allow you to determine the inspection frequency that makes the most sense for compliance and overall life safety. Some doors (and I suspect that you could rattle off a pretty good list of them without even thinking about it too much) are going to need a little more attention because they “catch” more than their fair share of abuse (crash, bang boom!). Now that this isn’t an optional activity (ah, those days of the BMP…), you might as well make the most of it.

 

Putting on my rant-cap, I’d like to steal just a few moments to lament the continuing decline of decency (it used to be common; now, not so much) when it comes to interactions with strangers (and who knows, maybe it’s extending into familial and friendial interactions as well—I sure hope not!) I firmly believe that any and every kindness should be acknowledged, even if it’s something that they were supposed to do! My favorite example is stopping for pedestrians (and if you’ve been behind me, yes that was me stopping to let someone complete the walk); yes, I know that in many, if not most, places, the law requires you to stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk, but I think the law should also require acknowledgement from the pedestrians. Positive reinforcement can’t possibly hurt in these types of encounters. Allowing merging traffic to move forward (signaling is a desirable approach to this, but you should also signal the person who let you in). I’m not sure if we’re just out of practice or what, but I’d ask you to just try a little more to say “hi” or “thanks” or give somebody a wave when they aren’t jerks (and just so we’re straight, a wave includes more than just the middle digit). Maybe I’m going a little Pollyanna here, but the world is just not nice enough lately. Hopefully we can make an incremental improvement…

What a long strange trip it’s been…

And we’re still in the first month!

As I’ve been working with folks around the country since November 8, there’s been a lot of thought/concern/etc. relative to how the new administration is going to be impacting the healthcare world and the end of January may have offered us a taste of what’s to come with the issuance of an executive order to reduce regulatory influence/oversight of the healthcare industry by establishing a plan that requires federal agencies to remove two existing regulations for every one new regulation that they want to enact (for the healthcare take on this, please check out the Modern Healthcare article here. As with pretty much everything that’s been happening lately, there appear to be widely (and wildly) disparate interpretations on how this whole thing is going to manifest itself in the real world (assuming that what we are currently experiencing is, in fact, the real world), so for the moment I am adopting a wait and see attitude about the practical implications of these moves (and acquiring truckloads of antacid). I don’t know of too many healthcare organizations that are so fantastically endowed from a resource ($$$$) standpoint to be able to endure further reimbursement reductions, etc. In fact, once you start looking at the pool of available cash for capital expenditures (and for too many, it’s more of an almost-dried up puddle), it hardly seems worth the effort to plan on expenditures that are likely never to come to fruition. Quick aside: section 482.12(d) of the Conditions of Participation requires each participating organization to have an institutional plan and budget, including a capital expenditure plan for at least a three-year period, though for far too many 3 x 0 is still a big fat goose egg, but still you must plan.

I would like to think that there’s a way forward that will result in greater financial flexibility for hospitals—in spite of some late-2016 chatter about allowing failing hospitals to do just that—fail! There were some closures last year. Hope nothing that impacted you; I couldn’t find anything that specifically indicated how many hospitals might have closed in 2015, so I can’t tell if last year was an aberration or business as usual. I do know that it is very tough when safety and facilities have to compete with some of the sexier members of the technology family; particularly those that generate revenue—growl! I couldn’t tell you the last time I saw an ad saying how clean and comfortable a hospital was (I think it would be a nice change of pace). And while I absolutely recognize the importance of wait times, technology advances, etc., if the physical environment is not holding up its end of the equation, it doesn’t really make for the best patient experience and that’s kinda where things are headed. It’s the total patient experience that is the measure of a healthcare organization—you’ve got to do it all and you have to do it good.

So, I guess we’ll have to keep an eye on things and hope that some logic (in spite of recent tendencies) prevails.

 

 

Who can turn the world on with her smile?

As we find 2017 reapplying time’s onslaught against pop culture icons, once again there’s a small “c” cornucopia of stuff to cover, some perhaps useful, some most assuredly not (that would be item #1, except for the advice part). Allons-y!

As goes the passage of time, so comes to us the latest and latest edition of the Joint Commission’s Survey Activity Guide (2017 version). There does not appear to be a great deal of shifting in the survey sands beyond updating the Life Safety Code® (LSC) reference, reordering the first three performance elements for the Interim Life Safety Measure (ILSM) standard, and updating the time frame for sprinkler system impairments before you have to consider fire watches, etc. They also recommend having an IT representative for the “Emergency Management and Environment of Care and Emergency Management” (which makes EM the function so nice they named it twice…), which means that, yes indeedy, the emergency management/environment of care “interviews” remain on the docket (and review of the management plans and annual evaluations—oh, I wish those plans would go the way of the dodo…) for the building tour as well. Interestingly enough, there is no mention of the ILSM assessment discussion for any identified LSC deficiencies (perhaps that determination was made to late in the process)—or if there is, I can’t find it. So for those of you entertaining a survey this year, there’s not a ton of assistance contained therein. My best advice is to keep an eye on Perspectives—you know the surveyors will!

And speaking of which, the big news in the February 2017 issue of Perspectives is the impending introduction of the CMS K-tags to the Joint Commission standards family. For those of you that have not had the thrill of a CMS life safety survey, K-tags are used to identify specific elements of the LSC that are specifically required by CMS. Sometimes the K-tags line up with the Joint Commission standards and performance elements and sometimes they provide slightly different detail (but not to the point of being alternative facts). As TJC moves ever so closely to the poisoned donut that is the Conditions of Participation, you will see more and more readily discernible cross-referencing between the EC/LS (and presumably EM) worlds. At any rate, if I can make one consultative recommendation from this whole pile of stuff, I would encourage you to start pulling apart Chapter 43 of the 2012 LSC – Building Rehabilitation, particularly those of you that have been engaged in the dark arts of renovation/upgrading of finishes, etc. You want to be very clear and very certain of where any current or just-completed projects fall on the continuum—new construction is nice as a concept (most new stuff is), but new construction also brings with it requirements to bring things up to date. This may all be much ado about little, but I’d just as soon not have to look back on 2017 as some catastrophic survey year, if you don’t mind…

Until next time, have a Fabulous February!

Don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t tell, don’t get in trouble…

Hope everyone is having a good week and that the rather stormy weather impacting so many parts of the country has not created too much of a challenge for you and your organizations.

This week is another (sort of) catch-all of topics, starting first with a little bit of CYA advice.

Lately there have been several instances (of which I am aware—can’t say for sure if this is an iceberg, but it “feels” like it might) of some very adverse accreditation/deemed status decisions based on insufficient documentation that organizational leadership had been effectively informed of conditions in the physical environment that required additional resources, etc. It’s not that organizational leadership was unaware of the conditions, but more that there was no trail of documented discussion (committee minutes, surveillance rounds, etc.) by which the organization could demonstrate to the surveyors that they had everything under control. In fact, the impression given because of the lack of a documented trail was exactly the opposite.

While nobody is really keen on telling their boss about problems of significance, especially problems for which the means of resolving them are elusive or beyond one’s resources (don’t want to look like you can’t do your job effectively), it is of critical importance to be able to escalate these types of issues to (or near) the top of the organization. Typically, this is about having to fund something (at least in my experience); maybe it’s a roof replacement; maybe it’s replacing some HVAC equipment—I’m sure most folks have a list of things for which it is a struggle to get traction. Let’s face it, unless it’s a new building, facilities infrastructure improvements, safety stuff, etc., is not particularly sexy, so when the capital improvement budgets come and go, it’s a tough sell. But sell it you must and you must keep pushing it—eventually those improvements (or lack thereof) are going to impact patient care and that’s when things can go south in a hurry. We always want to be respectful and not panicky, etc., but, please believe me, when the three- and four-letter regulatory folks knock on the door, you want to be in a position to describe how issues are brought to the attention of leadership. It may not be too pleasant in the moment (okay, in all likelihood, it won’t be pleasant at all), but it can save a whole lot of grief later on.

Next up (and this is something in the way of a commercial), The Joint Commission is hosting a webinar on Tuesday, February 7 to provide information on the new SAFER matrix, which is going to be an important feature of your survey report. We first covered it back in May, but now that they’ve been using it for the past few months (in behavioral health hospitals), it’s possible (I’m hoping likely, but I don’t want to get too amped up) that they will be sharing some useful information from the field. At any rate, particularly for those of you anticipating surveys in the next six to 12 months, I would try to make time for this one. I truly believe that every good intention is put into these survey changes, but I think we can all agree that those good intentions figure very prominently on a certain road…

Finally, this week, I would encourage you to look really, really, really closely at your interim life safety measures (ILSM) policy. TJC conducted a consultant conference last week and it is my understanding that the one significant shift in the survey of the physical environment is that there is going to be a lot of focus on the practical application of ILSMs as a function of Life Safety Code® deficiencies that cannot be immediately corrected. You have to make sure that your policy reflects an ongoing, robust process for that part of the equation. I think the conclusion has been drawn that folks generally have it together when I comes to ILSMs and construction, but are rather less skilled when it comes to those pesky LS deficiencies. We know they tend to focus on areas where they feel there are vulnerabilities (how else might one explain the proliferation of EC/LS/EM findings in recent years). This is a big one folks, so don’t hesitate to dial in with questions.

 

One less thing to pull out of your arsenal…

As we play yet another round of mishegas, it occurs to me that it’s been a while since I’ve really been able to tee off on something. Oh well, I guess it’s the little stuff that makes things interesting…maybe the February issue of Perspectives will provide fodder for my rant-mill… stay tuned.

First up, we have the (probably timely) demise of that titan of healthcare apparel, the powdered medical glove. It seems that the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that the risks to the health of users and those upon whom those gloves are used (including bystanders) are so egregious that it instituted an immediate ban on their use, effective January 18, 2017. The potential dangers include severe airway inflammation from inhalation of the powder; wound inflammation and post-op adhesions from contact with the powder, and allergic reactions from breathing powder that carries proteins from natural rubber latex gloves. You can get the whole picture here. While I do believe that powdered wigs are still de rigeur in certain circles (constitutional re-enactors, for one) despite the opening line in the VIN News article, I hope that these actions are not a prelude to restrictions on powdered doughnuts (or donuts, depending on your preference—for the record, my favorite is raspberry jelly!)

Breaking it down with TJC

Our friends at the American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE) announced this week that they will be offering a series of webinars aimed at uncovering the mysteries of deep space, no wait, to introduce us to the inner workings of the 75 new performance elements in the Joint Commission standards, effective, well, pretty much right now. The featured presenter for the kickoff presentation is none other than Joint Commission’s Director of Engineering George Mills and it promises to be a rollicking good affair. That said, I do hope you are an ASHE member: if you are, the webinar is free; otherwise it’s $125, which seems a little steep for a single program (the advertising says this is a series of webinars, but this appears to be the only program scheduled at the moment, so your guess is as good as mine at this point). If I may indulge in a short rant, I’m still not convinced that having to pay to obtain access to TJC information that is not otherwise available as part of one doing business with the accrediting agency is a good thing. Not everyone has money in their budgets to do this (either membership in professional organizations or accessing educational programs) or the personal means to do this stuff on their own. While I am absolutely in favor of participation in professional organizations, I’m not sure that access to the insight of regulators is, while nice, the way things should be. Shutting up now…

Cue heavy breathing…

And let us end on a note of “Holy smokes, that was a near miss” (and I definitely did not see this one at the time—nor did I hear a ton of squawking). Last May, CMS decided to disallow hospitals from having security units that provide care for justice-involved individuals such as inmates and those in the custody of law enforcement or the state Department of Corrections. I’ve not worked with a ton of hospitals that have forensic units, but they are an important means of enabling hospitals to provide a safe environment for all while ensuring your forensic patient populations have appropriate access to needed inpatient healthcare services. Again, I didn’t hear a lot about this one, so it may be that the hue and cry was aimed in other directions; the American Hospital Association took up the cause and were able to convince CMS to rescind the “ban” (you can see the revised Survey & Certification memorandum here). This would have been a big time pain in the posterior for at least some number of folks, and may still be – I would encourage you to take a peek at the memorandum, including the scenarios presented at the end of the document—probably worth sharing with your organization’s leaders. I’m not exactly sure why CMS would have elected to go the route of disallowing security units for “justice-involved individuals” (that makes ’em JIIs—probably not an acronym that will catch on), though I would guess that ensuring patient rights are not violated in the process is a likely contributing factor. That said, any time a memorandum goes out on a specific topic, it seems to result in that topic becoming a wee bit hotter in the aftermath. No guarantees, but this might be a focus area in the coming months…

My heart is black and my lips are cold

Crash carts on flame with rock and roll!

I figured I’d start out the newly minted 2017 with a few brief items of interest: a device warning from FDA, some thoughts regarding post-Joint Commission survey activities, and a free webinar that some of you might find of interest.

On December 27, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) communicated a warning letter to healthcare providers regarding potential safety issues with the use of battery-powered mobile medical carts. The warning is based on FDA’s awareness of reports of “explosion, fires, smoking, or overheating of equipment that required hospital evacuations associated with the batteries in these carts.” Apparently, the culprits are those carts powered by high-capacity lithium and/or lead acid batteries and it also appears that there is a distinct possibility that you might just a few of these rolling around in your facility. Fortunately, the warning (you can see the details here) also contains some recommendations for how to manage these risks as a function of the preventive maintenance (PM) process for the battery-powered mobile medical carts; as well as recommendations for what to do in the event a fire occurs (might be a good time to think about testing your organization’s fire response plan as a function of response to a Class C electrical fire). The warning letter also contains some general recommendations for managing the mobile medical carts. So, if you were wondering whether you were going to have anything interesting to put on the next EOC Committee agenda, this one might just fit the bill. As a final thought on this, I think it very likely that our comrades in the regulatory surveying world might be interested in how we are managing the risks associated with these carts—and if you’re thinking risk assessment, I couldn’t agree more!

Moving on to the post-survey activity front, TJC division, for those about to be surveyed (I salute you!), I have some thoughts/advice for preparing yourselves for a slight, but nevertheless potentially dramatic, shift in what you will need to provide in your Evidence of Standards Compliance—a plan for ongoing compliance. Now I will admit that in some instances, being able to plot a course for future compliance makes a lot of sense; for example, managing pressure relationships in procedural areas. If you get tagged for that during a survey, I think it’s more than appropriate for them to want to know how you’re going to keep an eye on things in the future. But what about the million and one little things that could come up during a survey (and with the elimination of the C elements of performance, I think we all know that it’s going to seem like a million and one findings): doors that don’t latch, barrier penetrations, dusty sprinkler heads, etc. There already exist processes to facilitate compliance; are we going to be allowed to continue to use surveillance rounds as the primary compliance tool or is the survey process going to “push” something even more invasive? It is my sincere hope that this is not going to devolve into a situation in which past sins are held in escrow against future survey results—with compounding (and likely confounding) interest. Sometimes things happen, despite the existence/design/etc. of a reasonably effective process. As I’ve said before (probably too many times), there are no perfect buildings, just as there are no perfect plans. Hopefully perfection will not become the expectation of the process…

As a final note for this week, one of the bubbling under topics that I think might gain some traction the new year is the management of water systems and the potential influence of ASHRAE 188: Legionellosis: Risk Management for Building Water Systems. I know we’ve touched on this occasionally in the past and I think I’ve shared with you the information made available by our good friend at the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (check it out, if you haven’t yet done so), but in the interest of providing you with some access to a little more expertise than I’m likely to muster on the topic, there is a free webinar on January 19 that might be worth your time. In the live online event, “Following ASHRAE 188 with Limited Time, Money, and Personnel: Pressure for Building Operators and Health Officials,” respected expert Matt Freije will briefly discuss the pressure facing building operators as well as health officials regarding compliance with ASHRAE 188 to minimize Legionella risk, suggest possible ways to reduce the pressure, and then open the conversation to the audience. The 60-minute webcast begins at 1 p.m. EST. It’s free but space is limited; you can register here.

So that’s the scoop for this week. I hope the new year is treating you well. See you next week!

History shows again and again how standards (and EPs) point out the folly of men…

It’s beginning to look like the proofreaders in Chicago must be enduring some late nights watching the Cubs! I don’t know about you folks, but I rely rather heavily on the regular missives from The Joint Commission, collectively known as Joint Commission E-Alerts. The E-Alerts deliver regular packages of yummy goodness to my email box (okay, that may be a little hyperbolic) and yesterday’s missive was no exception. Well, actually, there was an exception—more on that in a moment.

While it did not get top billing in the Alert (which seems kind of odd given what’s been going on this year), the pre-publication changes to the Life Safety chapter of the accreditation manual have been revealed, including comparison tables between what we had in January 2016 and what we can expect in January 2017. Interestingly enough, the comparison tables include the Environment of Care (EC) chapter stuff as well (though the EC chapter did not merit a mention in the E-Alert), so there’s lots of information to consider (which we will be doing over the course of the next little while) and some subtle alterations to the standards/EP language. For example (and this is the first “change” that I noted in reviewing the 112 pages of standards/EPs), the note for EC.02.02.01, EP 9 (the management of risks associated with hazardous gases and vapors) expands the “reach” to specifically include waste anesthetic gas disposal and laboratory rooftop exhaust (yes, I know…very sexy stuff!). It does appear that at least some of the changes (tough to figure out the split between what is truly “new” and what is merely a clarification of existing stuff—check out the note under EC.02.03.05, EP 1 regarding supervisory signal devices because it provides a better sense of what could be included in the mix). Another interesting change occurs under EC.02.03.05 (and this applies to all the testing EPs) is that where previously the requirement was for the completion dates of the testing to be documented, now the requirement actually states that the results of the testing are to be documented in addition to the completion dates. Again, a subtle change in the language and certainly nothing that they haven’t been surveying to. Oh, and one addition to the canon is the annual inspection and testing of door assemblies “by individuals who can demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the operating components of the door being tested. Testing begins with a pre-test visual inspection; testing includes both sides of the opening.” At any rate, I will keep plowing through the comparison table. (Remember in the old days, it would be called a crosswalk. Has the 21st century moved so far ahead that folks don’t know what a crosswalk is anymore?)

The top billing in yesterday’s All Hallows Eve E-Alert (making it an Eve-Alert, I suppose) went to the latest installment in that peppiest of undertakings, the Physical Environment Portal. Where the proofreaders comment comes into play is that the Alert mentions the posting of the information relative to LS.02.01.30, (which happened back in August) but when you click on the link, it takes you to the update page, where the new material is identified as covering LS.02.01.35, so there is updated material, though you couldn’t really tell by the Alert. So, we have general compliance information for the physical environment folks, some kicky advice and information for organizational leadership, and (Bonus! Bonus! Bonus!) information regarding the clinical impact of appropriately maintaining fire suppression systems (there is mention of sprinkler systems, but also portable fire extinguishers). I’d be interested to see if anyone finds the clinical impact information to be of particular use/effectiveness. I don’t know that compliance out in the field (or, more appropriately, noncompliance) is based on how knowledgeable folks are about what to do and what not to do, though perhaps it is the importance of the fire suppression systems and the reasons for having such systems (Can you imagine having to evacuate every time the fire alarm activates? That would be very stinky.) that is getting lost in the translation. I have no reason to think that the number of findings is going to be decreasing in this area (if you’re particularly interested, the comparison table section on LS.02.01.35 begins on p. 80 of that document—any changes that I can see do appear likely to make compliance easier), so I guess we’ll have to keep an eye on the final pages of survey year 2016 and the opening of the 2017 survey season. Be still my beating heart!

Ah, the fresh (de)scent of hell…

Two relatively disparate topics of conversation this week; one that I suppose could be characterized as good news, the other not so much…

First, the good news: The Joint Commission is continuing in its review and revision of the various and sundry accreditation programs and has earmarked a number of EC performance elements for the scrap heap, one of which is kind of interesting (and none of which is what I had really hoped for—the management plans, like the monster in some horror flicks, just keep coming back for more). So the requirements that are either redundant or will be left up to the decision of each organization are as follows:

 

  • The requirement to monitor and report all incidents in which medical equipment is suspected in or attributed to the death, serious injury, or serious illness of any individual. Reason: All required by the Safe Medical Devices Act of 1990.
  • The requirement to have procedures that address how to obtain emergency repair services. Reason: Issue should be left to organization discretion.
  • The requirement to provide emergency access to all locked and occupied spaces. Reason: Should be left to organization discretion.
  • Requirement for staff and LIPs to describe or demonstrate methods for eliminating and minimizing physical risks in the environment of care. Reason: Left to organization discretion.
  • Requirement for staff and LIPs to describe or demonstrate how to report EC risks. Reason: Left to organization discretion.
  • Requirement for semiannual environmental tours in patient care areas. Reason: Left to organization discretion.
  • Requirement for annual environmental tours in non-patient care areas. Reason: Organization discretion.
  • Requirement to use environmental tours to identify environmental deficiencies, et al. Reason: (all together now!) Organization discretion.
  • Requirement for representatives from clinical, administrative, and support services to participate in the analysis of EC data. Reason: You guessed it!
  • Requirement to evaluate changes to determine if they resolved environmental safety issues. Reason: not quite what you might be thinking—It’s because this element is implicit in the requirement for your organization to take action on the identified opportunities to resolve environmental safety issues. But wait: How are we going to identify opportunities if we are wicked discreet about the environmental tours? Hmmm…

So we lose 10 performance elements that will now become “ghost” standards (don’t get any ectoplasm on you…icky!) Clearly the expectation that these elements are going to be present somehow and/or somewhere in your EC program is not going away and, to be honest, I’m not convinced (at least at the moment) that you’ll be able to risk assess your way out of a lot of this stuff. I’m most disappointed (after the management plans—I really, really, really don’t have a whole lot of use for them—they bring no intrinsic value to the process and are naught but an exercise in paperwork) in the removal of the specific requirements for staff to be able to describe or demonstrate methods for eliminating risks and to be able to report EC risks. I suppose you could decide that folks don’t have to know that stuff, but I have spent a lot of time and energy beating the drum for the “spread” of safety to point of care/point of service folks. Safety does not live on a committee; it does not live on a periodic survey process. Safety lives everywhere in your “house” every moment of every day. Somehow removal of those two EP’s makes me a little verklempt…

But not as verklempt as some of the folks in Chicago might be of late. Quick background: Periodically, CMS is charged with notifying Congress as to how the various and sundry accreditation organizations are faring when it comes to surveying to the Conditions of Participation, which is pretty much the fundamental task of the deemed status process. At any rate, the information that CMS shared with those pesky Congresspersons can be found here. Of particular interest to this conversation is the information beginning at the bottom of p. 38 of the document, where you will find a table that outlines the disparity rate between Condition-level findings identified by the accrediting organizations (referred to as AOs in the report) and those found by CMS during validation surveys. While (and I don’t think it’s much of a surprise) CMS does ferret out things that were missed during the regular accreditation survey, of the “big three” accreditors of hospitals (AOA/HFAP, DNV, TJC), only TJC did not improve its disparity score in FY 2014 (as the only accrediting agency for psychiatric and critical access hospitals, it didn’t do real well there, either—see pp. 39-40).

But where things get kind of ugly for us is the table (lucky #13) on p. 44, which lists the types of findings missed most frequently in hospitals by the accreditation organizations as compared to CMS. And the most frequently missed Condition of Participation? Why, it’s our old friend, the Physical Environment! The environment fares somewhat better in psychiatric hospitals (which, to be honest, surprises me a little, but it may be a question of a small sample size; unless, of course, your sample size is HUGE!) and about the same in critical access hospitals. At this point, I think I’ve probably yapped enough for one week, but I would encourage you to check out the analysis of the physical environment findings starting on p. 49. It doesn’t paint a particularly bright picture, particularly if there were any of you folks anticipating a return to the clinical side of things during surveys. All signs point to even more scrutiny (happy, happy, joy, joy!) of the physical environment…imagine that.

Batten down the hatches, mateys—we’re in for quite a blow!