RSSAll Entries in the "Hospital safety" Category

An invitation to the regulatory dance—and the band keeps playing faster…

About a year ago, we chatted a bit about the likely changes to the regulatory landscape under a new administration, most of which (at least those related to the changing of the guard) never really materialized to any great extent. But one thing held true—and continues as we embark upon the good ship 2018—the focus on management of the physical environment is very much at the forefront of preparatory activities.

We also chatted a bit about The Joint Commission’s previous exhortations to healthcare leaders to focus more attention on the management of the physical environment (I was going to provide a link to TJC’s leadership blog regarding our little world, but it appears that the page is not so easily found, though I’m sure it has nothing to do with revisionist history…). But it does appear that there’s no reason to think that the number (and probably types) of survey findings in the environment are going to be anything but steady, though hopefully not a steady increase. Remember, we still have two years in the survey cycle before everyone gets to have undergone their first survey with the loss of the rate-based performance elements.

Which brings us squarely to 2018 and our continuing storm of regulatory challenges; I had made a list of stuff that I believed would play some role of significance in 2017 and (strangely enough) appear to be poised to do the same in the coming year (or two…or three?!?):

 

  1. Physical environment standards remain among the most frequently cited during TJC surveys (Nine of the 10 most frequently cited standards for the period January through June 2017). Please check out the September 2017 issue of Joint Commission Perspectives for the details! Just so you know (and I do believe that I’ve mentioned this in the past), I “count” IC.02.02.01 as a physical environment standard. Yes, I know it’s under the Infection Control chapter, but disinfection, the management of equipment and supplies? That all happens in the environment!
  2. CMS, in its report card to Congress, identified the physical environment as the largest “gap” of oversight during all accreditation organization surveys
  3. Also in its report card to Congress, CMS singled out TJC as lagging behind its competition when it comes to improving identification of deficiencies relative to the Conditions of Participation. I firmly believe that the report card to Congress was the proverbial “spark” that fanned the flames of regulatory focus in the environment. I don’t know when we can expect an updated edition of the report card (I suspect that it may be a while), but knowing that CMS is “concerned” can only mean continued focus…
  4. CMS adoption of the 2012 Life Safety Code® (effective survey date of November 1, 2016) definitely did create some level of confusion and uncertainty that always accompanies “change.” And 2017 demonstrated very clearly that it’s not just “us” that have to learn the practical application of the new stuff—the surveyors have to catch up as well! I am definitely starting to see the impact of the adoption of the 2012 Health Facilities Code (NFPA 99)—if you don’t have a copy in your library, it might just be time.
  5. TJC is in the process of revising its Environment of Care and Life Safety chapters to more closely reflect CMS requirements. January 2018 continues the rollout of the standards/performance elements updates—and they’re still not done. As we’ve discussed over the last few weeks, there’s still a lot of shifting requirements (some we always knew were in place, others merely rumored).
  6. Recent TJC survey reports indicate an increasing focus (and resulting vulnerabilities) on outpatient locations, particularly those engaging in high-level disinfection and/or surgical procedures. The physical environment in all areas in which patients receive care, treatment, and services are generating up to 60% of the total physical environment findings in recent surveys. That was just as true in 2017 as in 2016—each care location in the organization has to be prepared for multi-day scrutiny.
  7. CMS published its final rule on Emergency Preparedness (including Interpretive Guidelines, effective November 2016, with full implementation of requirements due November 2017). While organizations in compliance with current TJC Emergency Management standards will be in substantial compliance with the new rule, there will be some potential vulnerabilities relative to some of the specific components of the rule. The key sticking points at the moment appear to relate to the Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) and the processes for delegating authority and leadership succession planning during extended events.
  8. Introduction of TJC’s SAFER matrix, which did indeed result in every deficiency identified during the survey process being included in the final survey report. Formerly, there was a section called Opportunities For Improvement for the single findings that didn’t “roll up” into a Requirement For Improvement. With the SAFER matrix, everything they find goes into the report. And there did seem to be a preponderance of findings “clustered” (make of that descriptor what you will) in the high risk sections of the matrix.
  9. As a final “nail” in the survey process coffin, effective January 2017, TJC will no longer provide for the clarification of findings once the survey has been completed. While this didn’t result in quite the devastation in the process as it might have first appeared (mostly because I think it forced the issue of pushing back during the survey), it also appears that clarification only during survey was not the hard line in the sand it appeared to be when this first “dropped.” That said, there very definitely seems to be a reluctance on the part of the folks at the Standards Interpretation Group (SIG) to “reverse the call on the field” once the survey team has left the building; just as there is a reluctance to vacate physical environment findings once the LS surveyor has hit the bricks. If you feel that a finding is not valid, there is no time like the present when it comes to the pushback.
  10. One unexpected “change” during 2017: The focus on ligature risks in the various environments in which behavioral health patients receive care, treatment, and/or services. We’ve discussed the particulars fairly extensively in this space and while I didn’t see it “coming,” it has certainly leaped to the top of the concern pile. The recent guidance from the regulators has (perhaps) helped to some degree, but this one feels a lot like the focus on the procedural environment over the past couple of years. I don’t think they’re done with this by any stretch…

 

In my mind, still working from the perspective of CMS calling out the physical environment as an area of concern, the stuff noted above indicates the likely result that the next 12-24 survey months will show a continued focus on the physical environment by the entire survey team (not just the Life Safety surveyor) and a likely continued plateau or increase in findings relating to the physical environment. I still believe that eventually the regulatory focus will drift back more toward patient care-related issues, but right now the focus on the physical environment is generating a ton of findings. And since that appears to be their primary function (generating findings), there’s always lots to find in the environment.

As I like to tell folks (probably ad nauseum, truth be told), there are no perfect buildings/environments, so there’s always stuff to be found—mostly fairly small items on the risk scale, but they are all citable. The fact of the matter is that there will be findings in the physical environment during your next survey, so the focus will shift to include ensuring that the corrective action plans for those findings are not only appropriate, but also can demonstrate consideration of sustained compliance over time. Preparing for the survey of the physical environment must reflect an ongoing process for managing “imperfections”—not just every 36 (or so) months, but every day.

Try to run, try to hide: Some random thoughts to open the 2018 Physical Environment campaign

I suspect that I may return to the coming changes to the Life Safety standards and EPs dealing with outpatient occupancy, but I wanted to toss a couple of other thoughts your way to start things off with a lesser potential for headaches derived from over-stimulation of the regulatory madness response.

Some of the funkiest findings that arise during survey are those relating to the euphemistic “non-intact surfaces.” The overarching concerns relate to how effectively non-intact surfaces can be cleaned/disinfected, with the prevailing logic being “not particularly well.” One of the surfaces that will encounter scrutiny during survey is the omnipresent patient mattress and I suspect a recent study by ECRI is only going to increase attentions in this regard because, to be honest, what they found is kind of disturbing. As we’ve discussed in the past, ECRI publishes an annual list of technology challenges, and #3 on the hit list this year involves the risks associated with “mattress ingress,” which roughly translates into blood and body fluids seeping into mattresses with non-intact surfaces. I think part of the dynamic at work is that mattresses are somewhat (and in some instances, very much) more expensive than in the “old days,” which decreases the ability for organizations to have a ready supply of backup mattresses for replacement activities. Of course, you have to have a robust process for identifying mattresses to be replaced and that process generally hinges on the active participation of the folks in Environmental Services. As one might imagine, this can become a costly undertaking if you’ve got a lot of cracked or otherwise damaged mattresses, but if you need some additional information with which to encourage the importance of the process, Health Facilities Management magazine has something that I think you’ll find useful.

Another one of those funky findings that I see bubbling up from time to time are those related to the use (including availability) of appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). From a practical standpoint, I know it can be a wicked pain in the butt to get folks to do what they’re supposed to when it comes to PPE use (especially when they are engaged in the inappropriate mixing of chemicals—yow!). While it is too early to tell whether this is going to be helpful or another bludgeon with which regulatory surveyors can bring to bear on safety professionals, the tag team of CDC and NIOSH have come up with a “National Framework for Personal Protective Equipment Conformity Assessment – Infrastructure” to help achieve some level of standardization relative to PPE use. It does (of course!) include the use of processes that very much resemble those of a risk assessment, including identification of risks and hazards and identification of PPE types needed to address those risks and hazards. Part of me is fearful that this is going to be just one more opportunity for field surveyors to muddy the waters even more than they are now (is that even possible? I hope not…). At any rate, this is probably something with which you should be at least passingly familiar; you can find the details, as well as the downloadable document, here.

As you’ve probably noticed over the last little while, these pages tend to focus more on TJC and CMS than most of the accreditation organizations, but I was happy (Pleased? Intrigued? Something else?) to see that the Health Facilities Accreditation Program (HFAP) had published a summary of its most frequently cited standards/conditions during 2017 in its annual Quality Report. I’ll let you look over the document in its entirety, but some of the EC/EM/LS findings were kind of interesting. In no particular orders, some topics and thoughts:

  • Business continuity: Effective recovery from an emergency/disaster is the result of thoughtful planning. The road to recovery should be clearly charted.
  • Emergency supplies: Apparently there is a move towards maintaining emergency supplies as a separate “entity”; also an inventory is important.
  • Security of supplies: Make sure there are provisions for securing supplies; I suspect this is most applicable during an emergency, particularly an extended-time event.
  • Personal Protective Equipment: Don’t forget PPE in your emergency planning activities.
  • Decontamination/Triage/Utilities/Volunteers: Make sure you have a handle on these in your emergency plan.
  • Environment of Care: Eyewash stations, ligature risks, dirty and/or non-intact surfaces, clustering of fire drills, past due inspections of medical equipment, air pressure relationships, open junction boxes, obstructed access to electrical panels, etc., risk assessment stuff, making sure that all care environments are demonstrably included in the program.
  • Life Safety: Improper installation of smoke detectors, exit/no exit signage concerns, fire alarm testing issues (not complete, no device inventory, etc.), egress locking arrangements, unsealed penetrations, rated door/frame issues.

Again, the link above will take you to the report, but there’s really nothing that couldn’t be found anywhere if there are “lapses of concentration” in the process. Right now, healthcare organization physical environments are being surveyed with the “bar” residing at the perfect level. I have encountered any number of very effectively managed facilities in the 16 years I’ve been doing this, but I can count the number of perfect buildings on the finger of no fingers. Perhaps you have one, but if you’ve got people scurrying around the place, I suspect perfection is the goal, but always a distance away…

But I never wave bye-bye: Closing out 2017 with some LSC goodies…

As noted last week, this week’s foray looks into the changes to the Life Safety chapter that will be onboarding at the turn of the new year (the details can be found here). I think (for the most part), there is nothing particularly earth-shattering in the new requirements: really just a mix of updating the NFPA standards edition numbers, some increased granularity relative to fire alarm systems, and a couple of opportunities for some quick risk assessments/evaluations to ensure that what you had is not going to get you into survey difficulty. Also (and I guess only time will tell us how important this is going to be), it is important to continue to monitor the practical applications of Chapter 43, especially when one is in the throes of changing utilization to the point of a shift in occupancy classifications. My not-insubstantial gut tells me that this has great potential for consternation in the field, including the ongoing impact of inconsistent (bordering on draconian) interpretations. Certainly some of the granularity indicated below will lessen some of the over-interpretation woes (definitive reads on square footage should help), but those hard lines drawn in the sand can also represent some challenges as you are planning and executing renovation, etc., projects. In my experience, there aren’t too many projects that remain the same (in terms of scope) through the design and build phases, so you may find yourself paying more attention to expanding project footprints.

And so:

LS.02.01.10

  • Building undergoing change of use or occupancy must be in compliance with 101-2012:43.7 (certain exceptions, as always, apply); likewise, any additions must comply with the requirements for new.
  • Any of you with non-sprinklered smoke compartments undergoing major rehabilitation are putting sprinklers in (I hope); major rehabilitation involves more than 50% of the area of the smoke compartment or 4500 square feet—whichever comes first.
  • Multiple occupancies in a building must observe the most stringent occupancy requirements—so keep those occupancy separations well-defined and tight; also, outpatient surgical departments must be classified as ambulatory healthcare regardless of the number of patients served. Those of you at organizations considering going to provider-based models need to keep those surgical procedure locations under close watch.

 

LS.02.01.20

  • Make sure your horizontal sliding doors that are not automatic closing are limited to a single leaf and have a latch or other mechanism to prevent the door from rebounding; also, there are some specific requirements for horizontal doors serving an occupant load of 10 or fewer, including operability from either side without special knowledge or effort and a couple other things. 101-2012: 18/19.2.2.2.10.2 will help you with the details.
  • Make sure that every corridor provides access to at least two approved exits; no passing through any intervening rooms or spaces other than corridors or lobbies.
  • Have you included a look at door widths in your ongoing rated door program? Existing exit access doors have to be at least 32 inches in clear width, though you can hold on to your 28-inch doors if you’re not evacuating by bed, gurney, or wheelchair. New exit access doors have to be at least 41½ inches in clear width (psych hospitals have to be at least 32 inches wide). Doors not subject to patient use, exit stairway enclosures or serving newborn nurseries can hold the line at 32 inches. Door pairs with an inactive leaf must have the inactive leaf secured with automatic flush bolts. There are a few other pieces of this, so make sure you transfer/transmit the particulars to the folks inspecting the doors.
  • Existing exit access doors and exit doors are of the swinging type and are at least 32 inches in clear width. Exceptions are provided for existing 34-inch doors and for existing 28-inch doors where the fire plan does not require evacuation by bed, gurney, or wheelchair.
  • Travel distances to exits are measured in accordance with NFPA 101-2012: 7.6.

 

LS.02.01.30

  • Laboratories using quantities of flammable, combustible, or hazardous materials that are considered a severe hazard are in accordance with NFPA 101-2012: 8.7 and NFPA 99 requirements. I’m thinking most of you are probably not in position of severe hazardousness, but if you’re thinking what I’m thinking, a little risk assessment should solidify any of the particulars.

 

LS.02.01.34

  • Make sure your fire alarm system is up to snuff relative to the applicable requirements of NFPA 70 National Electric Code and NFPA 72 National Fire Alarm Code—probably worth a conversation and some verification by your fire alarm inspection, testing, and maintenance folks. This includes a more than passing familiarity with placement and types of devices, ensuring an alternative power supply for alarm systems, etc. Make sure that manual and automatic initiation of the fire alarm system is in accordance with the noted requirements, including pull stations. Also, make sure your alarm zones are not larger than 22,500 square feet (for some reason, I think that this might provide some angst for folks…) and spaces open to corridors are provided with appropriate smoke detection.

 

LS.02.01.50

  • Make sure that any spots containing equipment using gas or gas piping are up to snuff with NFPA 54 National Fuel Gas Code and electrical complies with NFPA 70. You can maintain existing installations that are not fully compliant as long as there are no life-threatening hazards.
  • Make sure those pesky heating devices are in appropriate compliance—with both code and your organizational policy.
  • Equipment using gas or gas piping complies with NFPA 54-2012, National Fuel Gas Code; electrical wiring and equipment complies with NFPA 70-2012, National Electric Code. Existing installations can continue in service provided there are no life-threatening hazards.
  • If you have fireplaces in your facility, there are specific considerations, including carbon monoxide detection; 101-2012: 9.2.2 will give you the lowdown.
  • 101-2012 9.4 will get you the straight dope on escalators, dumbwaiters, and moving walks—and don’t forget to consult ASME/ANSI A17.1 for new and ASME/ANSI A17.3 for existing equipment.

 

LS.02.01.70

  • If you’re hanging draperies, curtains (including cubicle and shower curtains), and loosely hanging fabric in non-sprinklered compartments, then 101-2012: 10.3.1 is the compliance source. Of course, if you have sprinklers, there are exceptions…
  • No sprinkler protection? Upholstered furniture purchased on or after July 5, 2016 must meet Class 1 or char length and heat release criteria—101-2012: 10.3.2.1 and 10.3.3; mattresses purchased on or after 7/6/2016 must meet 101-2012 10.3.2.2 and 10.3.4
  • If you have a new engineered smoke control system, it must be tested in accordance with NFPA 92-2012, Standard for Smoke Control Systems. If you have an existing engineered smoke control system, it must be tested in accordance with established engineering principles.

 

Since I don’t want you to be completely comatose for your New Year’s celebrations, I will cover the ambulatory occupancy changes sometime in January (please feel free to prod me if you’d rather I do it sooner than later). And on that note, I wish each and every one of you safe celebrations and a most prosperously compliant New Year!

On the nth day of Christmas, CMS gave to me: Ligature risks revisited

As you will no doubt recall, back at the beginning of November, The Joint Commission released guidance relative to survey expectations and ligature risks, splitting things into guidance for behavioral health units/hospitals and then some separate items for expectations in non-behavioral health settings (emergency departments, inpatient units). The information release indicated that there were some folks from CMS involved in the (what will apparently be ongoing) discussion on what healthcare organizations can expect over the next little while as the challenges of managing all variations of the behavioral health patient population. What wasn’t clear at the time (at least to me—and it’s still not) was whether CMS’ participation in that process could be interpreted as an at least tacit endorsement of the guidance statements.

And now (well, this past week), CMS issued its own thoughts relative to its expectations, including indication that more will be forthcoming (in approximately six months’ time, so let’s just say sometime next summer). The Survey & Certification memorandum outlines the current slate of expectations (yours and theirs), starting with the pretty much unassailable notion that: “Ligature risks compromise Psychiatric Patients’ right to receive care in a safe setting.” I think we can all agree that that is a reasonable assertion with which to start a conversation.

The memo also goes on to outline the CMS definition of a ligature risk: “(a) ligature risk (point) is defined as anything which could be used to attach a cord, rope, or other material for the purpose of hanging or strangulation. Ligature points include shower rails, coat hooks, pipes, and radiators, bedsteads, window and door frames, ceiling fittings, handles, hinges and closures.” For me, the only surprise was that the example list didn’t say “include, but are not limited to.” I’m used to the regulatory rapscallions leaving themselves an “out” when it comes to this kind of stuff. While the list is pretty comprehensive, I think it stops a little short of all-inclusive, but perhaps as a function of the designated behavioral health environment, it will do. Which leads to the next highlight: this particular guidance is “primarily aimed at Psychiatric units/hospitals.” I guess that means that guidance for non-BH areas like regular emergency departments and acute-care hospital inpatient units that might have to manage behavioral health patients—maybe in the summer, but not really clear on that. It will be interesting to see how future guidance will dovetail (or not) with the TJC stuff.

So, as we wait for the next installment, it appears that it will be left in the hands of the folks on the ground (CMS regional offices, state survey agencies, accreditation organizations) to “the identification of ligature and other safety risk deficiencies, the level of citation for those deficiencies, as well as the approval of the facility’s corrective action and mitigation plans to minimize risk to patient safety and remedy the identified deficiencies.” At least for the moment, we know how TJC is going after this issue, but everything else is somewhat in the land of gray.

A couple of other items covered include time frame for correction of deficiencies (you have to fix things in the time frame identified by the surveying body, unless it is determined that it is not reasonable to expect compliance within the designated time frame, then only CMS can grant additional time for correction); the specific direction that ligature risks do not qualify for Life Safety Code® (LSC) waivers (because ligature risks are not LSC deficiencies); and if you do get to take additional time for corrective actions, monthly electronic progress reports—including substantiating evidence of progress towards compliance—will be the task. It would seem that the monthly check-in, particularly as a function of providing “substantiating evidence of progress” will help to keep the fires of progress burning bright in the hearts and minds of folks charged with making the necessary corrections. As a function of that, I’ve heard of some anecdotal accounts of surveyors indicating that there is a six-month grace period for corrective actions as long as you can substantiate that the corrections will take that long, but the word from Chicago is that is not the case. I have certainly witnessed long lead times for procurement of ligature-resistant door hardware and such, but that’s not enough to delay the reporting of progress process.

The Survey & Certification memorandum includes an attachment that outlines the current guidance to surveying agencies/organizations. I would encourage you all to give that a thorough look-see (and perhaps a dramatic reading instead of the traditional “’Twas the night before Christmas”—bet it puts the kiddies to sleep PDQ). Doubtless, I will weigh on some of the particulars as they leap out at me (much like those leaping lords) in the coming weeks, but I think I’ve gone on long enough for the moment. That said, I will leave you with these two passages from the guidance attachment:

  •  “In order to provide care in a safe setting, hospitals must identify patients at risk for intentional harm to self or others, identify environmental safety risks for such patients, and provide education and training for staff and volunteers.”

 

  • “Although all risks cannot be eliminated, hospitals are expected to demonstrate how they identify patients at risk of self-harm or harm to others and steps they are taking to minimize those risks in accordance with nationally recognized standards and guidelines.”

Certainly nothing we haven’t talked about in the past in regards to an endless supply of subjects, but kind of interesting to see this included in a missive from the palace…

Do you miss the safety professional you once had time to be?

I think we can agree that things in the safety world are moving along at a pretty good clip, particularly when it comes down to ensuring ongoing compliance with the various and sundry nuances that are flowing forth from the regulatory firehose. Now I’m sure are those of you that would like nothing better than to pore over the various and sundry code handbooks to figure out best to apply the latest changes to your practices/organizations. But I can tell you this: That’s getting to be very close to a full-time job all on its own—and too many of the current generation of survey findings have as much to do with managing the behaviors of staff at point of care and point of service as they do in figuring out what interpretation is going to win the day going forward. So, as I hear of some findings that I would tend to characterize as “frequently cited,” I want to make sure that I share them with you. This week, here’s a couple of items relating to emergency power:

Under the standard dealing with the setup of your emergency power system, there is a “new” performance element that requires a remote manual stoop station (with identifying label) “to prevent inadvertent or unintentional operation.” The performance element also points toward having a remote annunciator (powered by a storage battery) outside the EPS location. Anecdotally, I understand this is coming up with a fair frequency out in California, so probably worth a look-see for your gen sets.

Under the standard dealing with the inspection, testing, and maintenance of emergency power systems, the weekly inspection (and associated documentation) finally shows up as a specific performance expectation, as does the annual fuel quality test (to ASTM standards, so please make sure that your documentation of those activities is up to date).

As a final note for this week; some updates to the behavioral healthcare Life Safety chapter considerations, mostly shifting the Life Safety Code® chapter references from Chapter 26 (Lodging or Rooming Houses) in the 2000 edition to Chapter 32/33 (new and Existing Residential Board and Care occupancies). The changes impact “small” facilities that provide sleeping arrangements for four to 16 individuals. I don’t see anything particularly substantive, or indeed troubling, in the new stuff, but if you feel otherwise after checking it out, then please sing out loud and clear.

Hyperbaric oxygen makes some noise. Also: Stop, in the name of…the law? Love? Sanity?

First off, a quick word for those of you with responsibilities relating to hyperbaric oxygen chambers: NFPA 99 (2012) 14.2.4.5.3 states, “A source of breathable gas allowing unrestricted mobility shall be available outside a Class A or Class B chamber for use by personnel in the event that the air in the vicinity of the chamber is fouled by smoke or other combustion products of fire.” Soooooo, if you have not yet ordered a smoke hood with integral filter/air supply (or similar equipment) available for staff to use in case of a fire, then I would advise you to take very quick action on this, particularly if you are anticipating a survey sooner rather than later. Just as the recent medical equipment EP changes relative to oxygen equipment for hyperbaric oxygen environments came down from the mountain on composite-stone tablets, so too must the intricacies of Chapter 14 of NFPA 99-2012 be absorbed. Nothing like more new stuff to figure out…

Next up, a few random thoughts (more or less) about education and ensuring effectiveness (which might very well be a lost cause, yet I remain stubbornly hopeful).

The item that I keep coming up against is the thought/assumption (and yes, I know all about that last one) that the folks I see driving cars in various parts of the country are in fact licensed drivers. With the extended thought that in order to procure said license, there was some level of rudimentary testing of the budding licensee’s knowledge of the rules of the road. Now I will stipulate for all time that there is probably enough focus on simple driving etiquette and likely never will be. But, but, but, I am confident that there are certain elements that are universally covered in driver education and competency evaluation. So, I ask you this simple question: What is octagonal in shape, red in color, and provides what used to be a very specific command? (Hint: It’s a four letter word that, when reversed, describes cookware or perhaps earthenware.)

If you don’t know, it would seem that you are not alone…

It appears to me from my simple (but fairly voluminous at this point) observations that adherence to the octagonal has morphed into a corollary of the traffic signal (green means “go”; yellow means “speed up”; red means “it’s for the person behind me”). It’s gotten to the point where I’ve been honked at for actually coming to a full stop at these points and, to be honest, I’m not really sure how it all came to be widespread. I know it’s not because folks weren’t taught the expectation when encountering a stop sign (though I’m pretty sure that “yield” isn’t covered), but it does lead me to the question of how effectively do we “do” education?

Dragging this out into the hospital realm, I’m sure you’ve all come up against those survey encounters in which you cringe because you can’t be certain that the proper (never mind correct!) response is hard-wired into staff (particularly entry-level). Every day you see people doing things they have been instructed time and time again not to do (parking equipment, etc., in front of fire extinguishers, pull stations—you know the drill). And with alarmingly increasing frequency, you see people acting in a freakishly unsafe manner (e.g., cell phone use while driving); it can’t be that they don’t know and it can’t be that they are not at least somewhat familiar with the consequences. As a boss once told me: “You can’t mandate intelligence” (Ron White made a gazillion dollars converting that to something a little more folksy), but if that’s the case, how big a “stick” do you need to carry? Does a stick even work effectively anymore?

One of the key elements of post-survey corrective action plans is an increasing focus on how we plan to keep whatever it was from happening again. And I look at a majority of the findings and I’m thinking how far does one have to go to resolve each and every little thing for all time? I believe we should always be working towards perfection, but I am not so crazy as to think we’re going to get there anytime soon…

Thank you falletin me: Some survey-related (and otherwise random) thoughts

The first order of business is a word of thanks to anyone and everyone within the sound of my “voice” – I truly appreciate you (sometimes invisible) folks out there in the audience. It continues to be a rare treat having the opportunity to converse with you on a regular basis (the rarer treat is when I get to actually meet folks in the flesh—definitely a delightful happenstance when it occurs) and I hope that I’ve managed to carry on this little slice ‘o safety without being boring, pedantic, etc. Oftentimes, compliance stuff is rather more torturous than not, but what’s the point of doing something if you can’t have a little fun amidst the abject seriousness of it all…

Next up, a couple of items that have appeared during recent surveys that signal (in some instances) a clarification of intent and/or a change in the focus of the physical environment surveys. Some of this you will find endlessly aggravating, particularly if you get cited for it; some of it has the overpowering stench of inevitability as the regulatory folks find new and inventive ways to keep the numbers of findings at record levels. In no particular order:

 

  • In the wake of the clarifying information relative to the management of ligature risks, make sure that (and this is primarily in the ED/regular inpatient settings) for the risk items you have identified as being medically or clinically necessary/essential to the appropriate care of behavioral health patients, make sure that your risk assessment specifically identifies the inherent risks of the remaining risks. For example, if you need to have a medical bed (with side rails, etc.) in the room, make sure that all the specific risk elements of that (or “the”) medical bed are clearly enumerated in the risk assessment. Saw a survey result recently for which the finding was not that the bed was in the room (the finding specifically noted that the bed was medically necessary), but that the risk assessment did not clearly identify the individual components of the bed: side rails, electrical cord, etc. The survey finding indicated that the risk management strategy employed by the organization was appropriate (in this instance, using 1:1 staffing for the at-risk patients), the only “issue” was not identifying the component risks in the risk assessment. I think/hope that this is something of an overreach and if I find out that there is some clarifying information forthcoming, I will surely share it with you.
  • Those of you with older facilities (and perhaps some “younger” facilities as well) are often faced with the proliferation of electrical panels (and sometimes medical gas zone shutoff valves) that are located in spots for which it is almost impossible to ensure that equipment, etc., is not parked directly in front of the panel, etc. Sometimes the panels, etc., are located in the corridors (it really does make one appreciate electrical closets!); some of you may even have the abject misfortune of having electrical panels in your utility rooms (my condolences); and others have panels out in the operational area of busy locations like food services/kitchen areas. I wish that I had good news to impart, but there do seem to be at least a couple of surveyors heck-bent on citing each and every instance of obstructed access to electrical panels. And don’t get me started on corridor med gas shutoffs with electrical receptacles installed directly underneath. Sometimes I wonder if we would run into these types of conditions if the folks doing the design work actually had to live in the space once it is constructed…
  • Staying on the electrical side of things, I’ve also seen an increase in recent findings relating to the use (primarily in patient care areas) of relocatable power taps/power strips/etc. I know the appropriate management of these devices has been “hittable” for a little while now and perhaps there was an unspoken “honeymoon” period for the industry to get things going in the right direction. If that is the case, it appears that the honeymoon is over, so you (particularly if “you” are in the bucket for survey in the next little while) probably should focus a bit on power arrangements in the areas where equipment use and power needs tend to be exponential. I still think the resources provided by ASHE are worth checking out if you have not already done so. It just might save you a painful survey experience.

Closing out, I leave you with this thought/opportunity; I won’t pretend to have an answer for it, but perhaps someone out there in the audience might. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen very often to me personally, but as I get to visit and meet new folks all the time, I am always fascinated by a certain type of individual: they will pledge that they will do anything to help the cause, with the unspoken understanding that that help hinges on their not having to do anything. Sort of a “ask me anything and if it involves no effort on my part, I’ll be all over it.” Again, fortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a proliferation of these folks in healthcare, and if the sounds completely foreign to you, that’s great. But if anyone has any tips for managing the eager-to-pledge non-participant, I’m all ears.

A most joyous and restful Thanksgiving to you and yours!

I am barely breathing: Gas Equipment is on TJC’s Radar!

The past couple of weeks, I’ve been fielding some questions relative to some new performance elements under the Medical Equipment Management standard that covers inspection, testing, and maintenance activities. Apparently, folks have been receiving some sort of notifications from profession groups (in this case, it seems to be the respiratory therapy folks that are being targeted with the notifications.

At any rate, I think we can say (pretty much for all time) that any changes to the standards/EPs is likely to result in (at the very least) consternation and a potential uptick in findings related to said standards/EPs. At least some of the questioning is focused on a certain element of reliance on vendors (and we know how that can go). So, while I do believe that for the most part folks are going to be OK with the changes, I also recognize that a little conversation couldn’t possibly hurt…

In case you’ve not yet encountered the new stuff, what we have is this. For equipment listed for use in oxygen-enriched atmospheres (more on that in a moment), the following must be “clearly and permanently” labeled on the equipment (permanently meaning the labeling withstands cleaning and disinfecting—how many labels are like that?): 1) Oxygen-metering equipment, pressure-reducing regulators, humidifiers, and nebulizers are labeled with name of manufacturer or supplier; 2) Oxygen-metering equipment and pressure reducing regulators are labeled “OXYGEN–USE NO OIL”; 3) Labels on flowmeters, pressure-reducing regulators, and oxygen-dispensing apparatuses designate the gases for which they are intended; and 4) Cylinders and containers are labeled in accordance with Compressed Gas Association (CGA) C-7.

The source material for these “new” requirements is in NFPA 99-2012 11.5.3.1; and please note that color coding is not to be utilized as the primary method of determining cylinder or container contents; I suppose when you come right down to it, cylinders are no different than any other secondary container when it comes to identifying the contents.

The follow-up question becomes one of what constitutes an “oxygen-enriched atmosphere”; in the definitions section of NFPA 99-2012, section 3.3.131 gives us this: “3.3.131 Oxygen-Enriched Atmosphere (OEA). For the purposes of this code, an atmosphere in which the concentration of oxygen exceeds 23.5 percent by volume. (HYP)” Now, you may notice the little tag at the end of this definition, which gives us some indication of where we need to be particularly mindful, with “HYP” referring to hyperbaric therapy. I know there are more hyperbaric therapy locations than there used to be, but some folks aren’t going to have to worry too much about this. But in the interest of a complete picture, I looked over the materials in the NFPA 99 Handbook and I think the information there further narrows down the field of concern:

“The normal percentage of oxygen in air is 20.9 percent, commonly expressed as 21 percent. The value of 23.5 percent reflects an error factor of ± 2.5 percent. Such a margin of error is necessary because of the imprecision of gas measurement devices and the practicality of reconstituting air from gaseous nitrogen and oxygen. Hyperbaric chambers located in areas of potential atmospheric pollution cannot be pressurized with air drawn from the ambient atmosphere. Such chambers are supplied by ‘air’ prepared by mixing one volume of oxygen with four volumes of nitrogen. It is impractical to reconstitute large volumes of air with tolerances closer than 21 percent ± 2.5 percent. The code does not intend to imply that the use of compressed air cylinders in normal atmospheric areas (i.e., outside hyperbaric chambers) would create an oxygen-enriched atmosphere. The compressed air expands as it leaves the cylinder, drops to normal atmospheric pressure, and is not oxygen-enriched. This definition varies slightly from the one appearing in NFPA 53, Recommended Practice on Materials, Equipment, and Systems Used in Oxygen-Enriched Atmospheres [12], which states that the concentration of oxygen in the atmosphere exceeds 21 percent by volume or its partial pressure exceeds 21.3 kPa (160 torr). The scope of the definition is limited to the way the term is used throughout NFPA 99. The definition is independent of the atmospheric pressure of the area and is based solely on the percentage of oxygen. In defining the term, the issue of environments, such as a hyperbaric chamber, where the atmospheric pressure can vary, was taken into consideration. Under normal atmospheric conditions, oxygen concentrations above 23.5 percent will increase the fire hazard level. Different atmospheric conditions (e.g., pressure) or the presence of gaseous diluents, however, can actually increase or decrease the fire hazard level even if, by definition, an oxygen-enriched atmosphere exists. An oxygen-enriched atmosphere, in and of itself, does not always mean an increased fire hazard exists.”

At the moment, given the definition above, I can’t think of anything other than hyperbaric environments that would be covered under the new requirements, but I’ll keep my ear to the ground and pass on any information that seems worth sharing; beyond that, I would do an analysis of equipment for hyperbaric therapy and go from there.

When we consider how we’re going to make this happen (if it isn’t already; I’m thinking/hoping that the gas equipment suppliers are paying attention to the new rules), at the end of the day, compliance with Joint Commission standards and performance elements rests solely in the hands of the organization. Again, presumably/hopefully/expectantly, the vendors from whom you obtain medical gases, equipment, etc., will be familiar with the requirements as they are based on the currently adopted/approved version of NFPA 99, as well as the requirements of the Compressed Gas Association (CGA). I would reach out to them to see what their plans are for compliance, remembering that (at least for the moment) the new requirements apply only to the gases and equipment used in oxygen-enriched atmospheres. I suspect that there will come a time when all related equipment, etc., is similarly labeled, but you may find that in the short term that you will have to keep a close eye on equipment used in surgery, hyperbaric oxygen, etc., to ensure that everything is as it should be. The general concept of not using oil on oxygen equipment is not new, so it may be that this is not going to be as big a struggle as might first appear. I’d be interested in finding out what you learn from the vendors you’re using, just to establish a baseline for advising folks.

 

Breaking good, breaking bad, breaking news: Ligature Risks Get Their Day in Court

As I pen this quick missive (sorry for the tardiness of posting—it was an unusually busy week), the final vestiges of summer appear to be receding into the distance and November makes itself felt with a bone-chilling greeting. Hopefully, that’s all the bone-chilling for the moment.

Late last month brought The Joint Commission’s publication of their recommendations for managing the behavioral health physical environment. The recommendations focus on three general areas: inpatient psychiatric units, general acute care inpatient settings, and emergency departments. The recommendations (there are a total of 13) were developed by an expert panel assembled by TJC and including participants from provider organizations, experts in suicide prevention and design of behavioral healthcare facilities, Joint Commission surveyors and staff, and (and this may very well be the most important piece of all) representatives from CMS. The panel had a couple of meetings over the summer, and then a third meeting a few weeks ago, just prior to publication of the recommendations, with the promise of further meetings and (presumably) further refinement of the recommendations. I was going to “cheat” and do a little cut and pasting of the recommendations, but there’s a fair amount if explanatory content on the TJC website vis-à-vis the recommendations, so I would encourage you to check them out in full.

Some of the critical things (at least at first blush—I suspect that we, as well as they, will be discussing this for some little while to come) include an altering of conceptual compliance from “ligature free” to “ligature resistant,” which, while not really changing how we’re going to be managing risks in the environment, at least acknowledge the practical reality that it is not always possible to provide a completely risk-free physical environment. But we can indeed appropriately manage the remaining risks by appropriate assessment, staff monitoring, etc. Another useful recommendation is one that backs off on the notion of having to install “alarms” at the tops of corridor doors to alert that someone might be trying to use the door as a ligature point. It seems that the usefulness of such devices is not supported by reported experience, so that’s a good thing, indeed.

At any rate, I will be looking at peeling these back over the next few weeks (I’ll probably “chunk” them by setting as opposed to taking the recommendations one at a time), but if anyone out there has a story or experience to share, I would be more than happy to facilitate that sharing.

As a final note for this week, a shout out to the veterans in the audience and a very warm round of thanks for your service: without your commitment and duty, we would all be the lesser for it. Salute!

 

Workplace Violence: One Can Never Have Too Much Info…

I will freely admit that sometimes it takes me a while to get to everything that I want to share with you folks and this is one of those instances…

Back in May (yes, I know—mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa—it was even longer ago that I was an altar boy), ECRI Institute published some information on violence in healthcare facilities that includes a white paper, some guidance on how to share the risk landscape of your facility as it relates to workplace violence and some other information that is accessible upon enrolling in a membership program (they have quite a few different programs, this week’s stuff comes from the Healthcare Risk Control program). I suspect that the provided information may be representative of a loss-leader to drive traffic to their website and service programs (much as this blog is a labor of love and obsession, its function is rather much the same—I don’t know that they would put up with my yammering otherwise), but the information available through the above links are certainly worth checking out (there are also free newsletters; as noted in this week’s headline, information coming directly to you saves having to hunt it down).

Another item on my mental to-do list (and it may very well be that it is on my to-done list, but a little reiteration never hurt anyone) was to encourage you to keep an close eye on The Joint Commission’s standards FAQ page (you have to do a lot of scrolling to get to the Hospitals section—they’ve changed the formatting of this section of their website and it just feels quite clunky to me). At any rate, there are way more FAQs than there used to be (maybe more than there needs to be, but if you make the presumption that the characterization of these questions as being frequently asked, then it is what it is) and you can’t really tell which ones have changed (they do highlight new FAQs; lots of pain management stuff on there right now). They used to include a date so you could more or less keep track of stuff. I’m going to guess that there’s going to be a lot of following up relative to the whole management of ligature risks—and make sure you talk to your organization’s survey coordinator to make sure you access the Suicide Risk Booster (there just seems to be something odd about that as a descriptor). As much as any issue there’s ever been in the physical environment, the management of ligature risks is one for which you cannot be too well prepared (think an infinite number of Boy Scouts and you’ll be moving in the right direction).