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Is this the survey we really want?

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

And then came the last days of May…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome to a new kind of tension…

In the “old” days, The Joint Commission’s FAQ page would indicate the date on which the individual FAQs had been updated, but now that feature seems to be missing from the site (it may be that deluge of changes to the FAQs (past, present, and, presumably, future) makes that a more challenging task than previously (I will freely admit that there wasn’t a ton of activity with the FAQs until recently). That said, there does appear to be some indication when there is new material. For example, when you click on the link (or clink on the lick), a little short of halfway down the page you will see that there’s something new relative to the storage of needles and syringes (they have it listed under the “Medical Equipment” function—more on that in a moment), so I think that’s OK.

But in last week’s (dated May 31, 2017) Joint Commission e-Alert, they indicate that there is a just posted FAQ item relating to ligature risks, but the FAQ does not appear to be highlighted in the same manner as the needle and syringe storage FAQ (at least as of June 1, when I am penning this item). Now I don’t disagree that the appropriate storage (recognizing that appropriate is in the eye of the beholder) of needles and syringes is an important topic of consideration, I’m thinking that anything that TJC issues relative to the appropriate management of ligature risks (and yes, it appears that I am far from done covering this particular topic) is of pretty close to utmost importance, particularly for those of you likely to experience a TJC survey in the next little while. I would encourage you to take a few moments to take a peek at the details here.

So, parsing these updates a bit: I don’t know that I’ve ever considered needles and syringes “medical equipment,” but I suppose they are really not medications, so I guess medical equipment is the appropriate descriptor—it will be interesting to see where issues related to the storage of needles and syringes are cited. As usual (at least on the TJC front) it all revolves around the (wait for it…) risk assessment. It’s kind of interesting in that this particular FAQ deals somewhat less specifically with the topic at hand (storage of needles and syringes) and more about the general concepts of the risk assessment process, including mention of the model risk assessment that can be found in the introductory section of the Leadership chapter (Leadership, to my mind, is a very good place to highlight the risk assessment process). So no particularly new or brilliant illumination here, but perhaps an indicator of future survey focus.

As to the ligature risks, I think it is reasonable to believe that there will be very few instances in which every single possible ligature risk will be removed from the care environment, which means that everyone is going to have to come up with some sort of mitigation strategy to manage those risks that have not been removed. With the FAQ, TJC has provided some guidance relative to what would minimally be expected of that mitigation strategy; while I dare not indicate verbatim (you will have to do your own clicking on this one—sorry!), you might imagine that there would need to be: communication of current risks; process for assessing patient risk; implementation of appropriate interventions; ongoing assessments of at-risk behavior; training of staff relative to levels of risk and appropriate interventions; inclusion of reduction strategies in the QAPI program; and inclusion of equipment-related risks in patient assessments, with subsequent implementation of interventions.

I don’t see any of this as particularly unusual/foreign/daunting, though (as usual) the staff education piece is probably the most complicated aspect of the equation as that is the most variable output. I am not convinced that we are doing poorly in this realm, but I guess this one really has to be a zero-harm philosophy. No arguments from me, but perhaps some important work to do.

Domo arigato (for nothing), Mr. Roboto!

In the never-ending pursuit of the effective management of risks associated with healthcare-acquired infections (HAI) comes a new study that begs the question: How clean is your robot? Back in October of last year (don’t know how I missed this one in the news feed…), the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) released the results of a study indicating that the (at least at the moment) complete sanitation of robotic instruments is virtually impossible when compared to “ordinary” instruments. I don’t know that I had given the subject a great deal of consideration, but, at least on the face of it, I can see where there are probably whole lot more nooks and crannies, etc., that could potentially become contaminated during a procedure. The article speaks of greater protein residue and lower cleaning efficacy (a reported 97.6% efficacy rate for the ‘bots, as opposed to the 99.1% for ordinary instruments). It would seem that researchers suggest that it might be necessary to establish new cleaning standards that use repeated measurements of residual protein instead of just taking one measurement after cleaning. The article doesn’t talk about what cleaning methods were observed, so I’m presuming that the typical methodologies were employed, though I’m also thinking that some of the larger portions of the bots end up staying in the procedure rooms, and I’m thinking that when the stuff starts flying, that’s a tough thing to clean. Maybe there’s an application for the use of UV radiation in these types of situations. At any rate, I guess we can file this one under the “you never know what’s going to catch your eye” category, but it may be enough of a subject to prompt a survey question or two about the efficacy of the process.

On the FAQ front, the folks in Chicago have uploaded one that addresses patient-use refrigerators. Not wanting to be a spoiler (or “spoilah” as it is sometimes uttered in Bawston), but if you wanted to guess that there might be an element of risk assessment in the mix, I, for one, would make no move to disabuse you of that notion. I guess the more things get updated, the greater the likelihood that certain themes will manifest themselves over, and over, and over, and over…

In other news, guess we need to think about being a little more careful about what we purchase during those bake sales… I don’t know if you saw the piece last week about a couple of folks at a hospital in NC falling prey to some cannabis-containing baked goods. As events unfolded, the police ended up getting involved, etc., though no charges are to be filed (no drugs in the baker’s possession—I guess everything went into the batter), but I guess it does point out that we’re never too far away from Woodstock. I guess it’s time to update the “don’t take the brown acid” to “don’t take the brownies without a pedigree.” I wonder how this would play on the OSHA 300 log next year?

We mean it, man!

I’ve been watching this whole thing unfold for a really long time and I continue to be curious as to when the subject of managing workplace violence moves over into the survey of the physical environment. I think that, as an industry, we are doing a better job of this, perhaps as much as a function of identifying the component issues and working them through collaboratively as anything, but I don’t know that the data necessarily supports my optimistic outlook on the subject. One think I can say is that our friends at the Occupational Safety & Health Administration are going to be closing out the comment period soon (April 6, to be exact) on whether or not they need to establish an OSHA standard relative to preventing violence in healthcare and social assistance—if you have something to add to the conversation, I would encourage you to do so.

I do think that there are always opportunities to more carefully/thoughtfully/comprehensively prepare the folks on the front lines as they deal with ever greater volumes of at-risk patients (a rising tide that shows little or no sign of abating any time soon). They are, after all, the ones that have to enforce the “law,” sometimes in the face of overwhelming mental decompensation on the part of patients, family members, etc. As an additional item for your workplace violence toolbox, the American Society for Healthcare Risk Management has developed a risk assessment tool (with a very full resource list at the end) to help you identify improvement opportunities in your management of workplace violence. As I think we all know by now, a cookie-cutter approach rarely results in a demonstrably effective program, but what I like about the tool is it prompts you to ask questions that don’t always have a correct or incorrect response, but rather to ask questions about what happens in your “house.”

This topic somehow brings to mind some thoughts I had recently relative to the recalcitrance of some of my fellow travelers (meaning folks I encounter while traveling and not those that might have been encountered during the era of McCarthyism…) when it comes to following the directions of the TSA folks or other “gatekeepers” who keep things moving in an orderly fashion. I have seen folks in suit and tie pitch an absolute fit because they couldn’t skip to head of the line, had three carry-on bags instead of the allowed two, or had liquids in excess of what is allowed. I understand being a little embarrassed in the moment for the bag thing or the liquid thing, but to give the person who identified the issue a hard time makes no sense to me. And I think that sometimes our frontline staff fall victim to this type of interaction and have to suffer the consequences of an unhinged (OK, that may be a little hyperbolic, but I suspect you know what I mean) patron—even if they don’t have to endure someone taking a swing at them during these moments of tension. There was a day when the customer was always right, but now far too often, the customer is nothing more than an entitled bully and we have to make sure that our folks know we have their backs.

 

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.

Do you know the way to TIA?

Last week we touched upon the official adoption of a handful of the Tentative Interim Agreements (TIA) issued through NFPA as a function of the ongoing evolution of the 2012 edition of the Life Safety Code® (LSC). At this point, it is really difficult to figure out what is going to be important relative to compliance survey activities and what is not, so I think a brief description of each makes (almost too much) sense. So, in no particular order (other than numerical…):

  • TIA #1 basically updates the table that provides the specifications for the Minimum Fire Protection Ratings for Opening Protectives in Fire Resistance-Rated Assemblies and Fire-Rated Glazing Markings (you can find the TIA here). I think it’s worth studying up on the specific elements—and perhaps worth sharing with the folks “managing” your life safety drawings if you’ve contracted with somebody external to the organization. I can tell you from personal experience that architects are sometimes not as familiar with the intricacies of the LSC—particularly the stuff that can cause heartburn during surveys. I think we can reasonably anticipate a little more attention being paid to the opening protectives and the like (what, you thought it couldn’t get any worse?), and I suspect that this is going to be valuable information to have in your pocket.
  • TIA #2 mostly covers cooking facilities that are open to the corridor; there are a lot of interesting elements and I think a lot of you will have every reason to be thankful that this doesn’t apply to staff break rooms and lounges, though it could potentially be a source of angst around the holidays, depending on where folks are preparing food. If you get a literalist surveyor, those pesky slow cookers, portable grills, and other buffet equipment could become a point of contention unless they are in a space off the corridor. You can find the whole chapter and verse here.
  • Finally, TIA #4 (there are other TIAs for the 2012 LSC, but these are the three specific to healthcare) appears to provide a little bit of flexibility relative to special locking arrangements based on protective safety measures for patients as a function of protection throughout the building by an approved, supervised automatic sprinkler system in accordance with 19.3.5.7. Originally, this section of the LSC referenced 19.3.5.1 which doesn’t provide much in the way of consideration for those instances (in Type I and Type II construction) where an AHJ has prohibited sprinklers. In that case, approved alternative protection measures shall be permitted to be substituted for sprinkler protection in specified areas without causing a building to be classified as non-sprinklered. You can find the details of the TIA here.

 

I suppose before I move on, I should note that you’re probably going to want to dig out your copy of the 2012 LSC when looking these over.

As a quick wrap-up, last week The Joint Commission issued Sentinel Event Alert #57 regarding the essential role of leadership in developing a safety culture (some initial info can be found here). While I would be the last person to accuse anyone of belaboring the obvious (being a virtual Rhodes Scholar in that type of endeavor myself), I cannot help but think that this might not be quite as earth-shattering an issuance as might be supposed by the folks in Chicago. At the very least, I guess this represents at least one more opportunity to drag organizational leadership into the safety fray. So, my question for you today (and I suspect I will have more to say on this subject over the next little while—especially as we start to see this issue monitored/validated during survey) is what steps has your organization taken to reduce intimidation and punitive aspects of the culture. I’m reasonably certain that everyone is working on this to one degree or another, but I am curious as to what type of stuff is being experienced in the field. Again, more to come, I’m sure…

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…

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…