RSSAll Entries in the "The Joint Commission" 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!

No one told you when to run: Closing out one year, embarking on another…

Every once in a while, I like to poke back through recent missives from our friends in Chicago and elsewhere to see if there was anything that I missed on first review or something that didn’t really “pop” out at me at the time. And, somewhat typically, the really pressing hard news stories are in rather shorter supply as we get closer to year’s end. Truth be told, the whole ligature picture has really held sway in recent weeks, almost to the exclusion of everything else.

At any rate, in looking at the most recent (I think) slate of pre-publication standards, I noticed a couple of “new” requirements that gave me a little bit of pause. Due to some editorial constraints, I won’t identify the standards and EP numbers, but I will try to give you a sense of where there “live”: they are identified as “new” on the webpage, so that may be enough for you to find them (you’re a pretty smaht bunch and I have every confidence in your detective-ing abilities). This week we’ll cover the Environment of Care changes and hit the Life Safety changes next week (where did the year go!?!):

 

  • The hospital has a library of information regarding inspection, testing, and maintenance of its equipment and systems. Note: This library includes manuals, procedures provided by manufacturers, technical bulletins, and other information. (Safety Management)
  • Management of smoking materials for patients receiving respiratory therapy. (Smoking Policy)
  • Periodic evaluations of fire hazards during surgical procedures (don’t forget to define that period!) (Fire Safety Management)
  • Process for reducing risks when flammable germicides or antiseptics are using during “hot” surgical procedures (electrosurgery, cautery, lasers) (Fire Safety Management)
  • The hospital meets all other Health Care Facilities Code fire protection requirements, as related to NFPA 99-2012: Chapter 15. (Fire Safety Management)
  • Elevators with firefighters’ emergency operations are tested monthly. The test completion dates and results are documented. (Inspection, Testing & Maintenance of Life Safety Systems equipment)
  • Hyperbaric facility safety, including labeling of equipment used in oxygen-enriched atmospheres (we covered this a couple of weeks ago, with a couple of folks weighing in with questions on how far to go with Chapter 14 of NFPA 99; if the past is any indicator of the future, I would be moving towards adoption of the whole thing and probably start to extend the labeling of equipment out to all oxygen equipment—this is where they start digging into this—we know the targets will move over the next survey years, so better to be ahead of the game than behind). (Medical Equipment Inspection, Testing & Maintenance)
  • Inspection, testing, and maintenance of anesthesia apparatus, including gas flow and oxygen concentration verification; no oil, grease or flammables for oxygen equipment. (Medical Equipment Inspection, Testing & Maintenance)
  • ORs are wet locations unless you have a risk assessment that says otherwise and has been approved by the governing body (it appears that risk assessments done in “isolation” will no longer meet the mark—organizational leadership has to be involved in the process. Written record of the risk assessment is available for survey review. We covered this before.  (Utility Systems Management)
  • Risk level identification of electrical distribution; we did this one before as well.  (Utility Systems Management)
  • Hospital-grade receptacles at patient bed locations and where deep sedation or general anesthesia is administered are tested after initial installation, replacement, or servicing. In pediatric locations, receptacles in patient rooms (other than nurseries), bathrooms, play rooms, and activity rooms are listed tamper-resistant or have a listed cover. Electrical receptacles or cover plates supplied from the life safety and critical branches have a distinctive color or marking.  Keep an eye on those pediatric locations, particularly areas that can “swing” – tamper-resistant receptacles could well become a moderate risk of harm during survey. (Utility Systems Management)
  • Power strips must be appropriately listed for use in patient care vicinity, patient care rooms, etc. Focus on this has already started, so you better start working with your IT folks to make sure everything is going in the right direction. (Utility Systems Management)
  • Extension cords are not used as a substitute for fixed wiring in a building. Extension cords used temporarily are removed immediately upon completion of the purpose for which it was intended. I predict that this is going to keep this standard at the top of the most frequently cited standards list. (Utility Systems Management)
  • Areas designated for administration of general anesthesia using medical gases or vacuum are in accordance with NFPA 101-2012 and NFPA 99-2012 (Utility Systems Management)
  • Electrical system critical branch supplies power for specific needs (task illumination, fixed equipment, select receptacles, and select power circuits) in areas designated for administration of general anesthesia (specifically, inhaled anesthetics) using medical gases or vacuum. The EES equipment system supplies power to the ventilation system. (Utility Systems Management)
  • New buildings equipped with or requiring the use of life support systems (electro-mechanical or inhalation anesthetics) have illumination of means of egress, emergency lighting equipment, exit, and directional signs supplied by the life safety branch of the electrical system described in NFPA 99. (Utility Systems – Emergency Electrical Power Source)
  • Equipment designated to be powered by emergency power supply are energized by the hospital’s design. Staging of equipment startup is permissible. (Utility Systems – Emergency Electrical Power Source)
  • For deemed status hospitals, battery lamps and flashlights are available in areas not serviced by the emergency supply source. (Utility Systems – Emergency Electrical Power Source)
  • Line isolation monitors are tested in accordance with NFPA 99-2012. (Utility Systems Inspection, Testing & Maintenance)
  • Risk level identification of medical gas, medical air, surgical vacuum, waste anesthetic gas disposal (WAGD), and air supply systems. (Inspection, testing & maintenance of medical gas system components)
  • All master, area, and local alarm systems used for medical gas and vacuum systems comply with the category 1–3 warning system requirements. (Inspection, testing & maintenance of medical gas system components)
  • Containers, cylinders, and tanks are designed, fabricated, tested, and marked in accordance with NFPA 99-2012. (Inspection, testing & maintenance of medical gas system components)
  • Locations containing only oxygen or medical air have doors labeled “Medical Gases: NO Smoking or Open Flame.” Locations containing other gases have doors labeled “Positive Pressure Gases: NO Smoking or Open Flame. Room May Have Insufficient Oxygen. Open Door and Allow Room to Ventilate Before Opening.” (Inspection, testing & maintenance of medical gas system components)
  • A precautionary sign readable from 5 feet away is on each door or gate of a cylinder storage room, where the sign, at a minimum, includes the wording “CAUTION: OXIDIZING GAS(ES) STORED WITHIN NO SMOKING.” Storage is planned so cylinders are used in order of which they are received from the supplier. Only gas cylinders and reusable shipping containers and their accessories are permitted to be stored in rooms containing central supply systems or gas cylinders. (Inspection, testing & maintenance of medical gas system components)
  • More cylinder storage stuff (I suspect you know the drill)—NFPA 99-2012 has a great deal of detailed requirements—and I have no reason to think that they won’t be kicking the tires pretty diligently. (Inspection, testing & maintenance of medical gas system components)
  • Also, transfilling of liquid oxygen is a process with very, very specific requirements; if you’re not transfilling liquid oxygen in your facility, you could count yourself fortunate, but be on the lookout for any evidence of liquid oxygen being transferred inside your “house”; NFPA 99-2012 is your guide. (Inspection, testing & maintenance of medical gas system components)
  • Staff responsible for the maintenance, inspection, testing, and use of medical equipment, utility systems and equipment, fire safety systems and equipment, and safe handling of hazardous materials and waste are competent and receive continuing education and training. (Staff Competency & Education)

I know this is a lot of stuff to consider, but I wanted to put it out in front of you folks on the off chance that your bedtime reading hasn’t strayed into the realm of the 2018 standards changes. I have every reason to think that some of this stuff will show up again in this space (and what a space!), but if someone wants to start a particular conversation before we kick off (kick at?) 2018, please feel free.

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.

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).

 

Fall On Me: Keeping Emergency Management Changes in Perspective

As I was ruminating on a topic for this week’s conversation, the October issue of Perspectives came zipping over the electronic transom, and I think there is just enough stuff here to cobble together a relatively cogent offering to you all out there in the blogosphere (that’s right—after 10+ years, I’m working on cogency—who’d a thunk…)

First up is the announcement of proposed changes to the Emergency Management chapter (I say proposed, because the indication is that these changes still require approval by CMS) with an intended survey implementation date of November 15, 2017 (when the Emergency Management final rule takes full effect). From my experiences with folks, I still don’t think they’re barking up a tree for which we cannot (collectively) provide a reasonable response, but if you’re interested in what they think they need to change in the standards, the list of additions includes consideration of:

  • Continuity of operations and succession plans
  • Documentation of collaboration with local, tribal, regional, state, and federal EM officials
  • Contact information on volunteers and tribal groups
  • Documented annual training of all new/existing staff, contractors, and volunteers
  • Integrated health care systems
  • Transplant hospitals

Again, I don’t see anything that strikes me as being particularly daunting, though there’s still a fair amount of angst relative to these changes (as is the case with anything that changes). I know there’s been some consternation relative to managing Memorandums of Understanding (or Memoranda, if that be your preference) and Alternate Care Sites, but I think the important thing to keep in mind is that the journey to the Final Rule started back when the 2008 TJC standards were in full bloom. And I suspect that those of you who have been doing this for a while recall those heady days of focus on MOU’s, ASC’S, COOP’s and the like, concepts that have really kind of faded into the operational ether as the efficacy of those approaches has yielded wildly inconsistent levels of preparation. For some folks, MOU’s, ASC’s and COOP’s are essential, but I’ve also seen evidence that when the feces is striking the rapidly rotating blades, it is often the group that shows up first with the closest thing to cash that has access to resources. When you think about it, things like MOU’s are only an agreement to do the best one can under the circumstances—that’s why the interface with local and regional EM authorities is so very important. At any rate, next we’ll chat a bit about what the CMS survey instructions involve and why I think you folks are going to be in pretty good shape. I am curious as to whether or not there is an intent to modify the emergency response exercise requirements to more closely mirror the Final Rule—I guess all in the fullness of time.

Moving on to other Perspectives topics, it would seem that last month’s Clarifications and Expectations column was indeed the last official communication under George Mills’ direction. The column is on hiatus for the moment—I guess we’ll have to wait and see whether November brings it back (though oy could certainly make the case that EC-EM-LS topics are taking up a fair amount of space in the monthly Perspectives, Clarifications and Expectations columns notwithstanding).

There is a new Sentinel Event Alert (#58!) regarding issues relating to inadequate hand-off communications; the reason I mention it here is that, while the focus in Perspectives is very much on the clinical side of things, I think there is more than a little crossover into the safety / physical environment realm. I’m just planting the seed here, but I suspect that I will have more thoughts on this in the coming little while.

Finally (for this week), there is a piece on Workplace Violence as a function of screening for early detection of risk to harm self or others. I suspect that this may be a harbinger of next steps as it relates to how organizations are managing at-risk patients, particularly as a function of the current focus on ligature risks. In recognition that all the risks that are not medically/clinically necessary have removed, if you don’t have a pretty robust screening process in place, it makes it very challenging to manage the risks that remain. At any rate, I’d keep an eye on this one—much as they’ve been peeling the Infection Control “onion” over the past couple of years, I think this is how they’re going to expand focus in the behavioral health realm.

But, as a subset of that, I did want to muse a bit on those instances when entities that were thought of as “friendly” turn out (under certain circumstances) to be not so much. I suspect that most of you saw the news item back in July regarding the nurse working in the ED of a hospital in Salt Lake City, UT, who was forcibly arrested by local police for not acquiescing to a request that was not allowed by organization policy (if you missed it, you can see some of the story here or here.) I mention this only to point out that the management of this stuff is not always simple (OK, it pretty much never is simple), but this does offer up yet another facet to how facilities safety and security professionals have to proactively advocate for staff (and patient) safety. Some of the images of the arrest are most harrowing and definitely beg the question of how this came to pass in this day and age (or maybe it’s not as questionable an outcome as perhaps it might once have been). At any rate, it’s always important to periodically review what I refer to as the “rules of engagement,” particularly when it comes to interacting with law enforcement folks. If our folks can’t be protected from our “friends,” then what shot do we have against an unknown/unknowable “foe.”