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The other shoe is starting to fall: Moving beyond ligature risks!

Well, it does seem like there are a couple of compliance themes asserting themselves in 2018, concerns related to emergency management (relatively simple in terms of execution and sustainability) and concerns relating to the management of behavioral health patients and the management of workplace violence (relatively complicated in terms of execution and sustainability). I think we can say with some degree of certainty that there are some commonalities relative to the latter two (beyond being complicated to work through) as well as some crossover. And while I wish that I had a ready solution for all of this, if I have learned nothing else over the last 39+ years, it is that there are no panaceas when it comes to any of this stuff. And with so many different regulatory perspectives that can come into play, is it enough to do the best you can under the circumstances? As usual, the answer to that question (at least for the moment) is “probably not.”

In last week’s Hospital Safety Insider, there was a news item regarding OSHA citations for a behavioral health facility in Florida for which inadequate provisions had been made relative to protecting staff from workplace violence. As near as I can make out from the story, the violence was being perpetrated mostly in patient encounters and revolved around “failing to institute controls to prevent patients from verbal and physical threats of assault, including punches, kicks, and bites; and from using objects as weapons.” Now, in scanning that quote (from information released by the Department of Labor), it does seem rather daunting in terms of “preventing” patients from engaging in the listed activities. This is one of those really clear division between federal jurisdictions—OSHA is driving the prevention of patients from engaging in verbal and physical threats while CMS is (more or less) driving a limited approach to what I euphemistically refer to as the “laying on of hands” in the management of patients. That said, I think it’s worth your while to take a look at the specific correction action plan elements included in the DOL release—it may have the makings of a reasonable gap analysis if you have inpatient behavioral health in your facility. It appears that the entity providing some level of management at the cited facility was also cited at another facility back in 2016 for similar issues, so it may be that some of this is recurrent in theme, but I think it probably makes sense to take a look at the details to see if your place has any of the identified vulnerabilities.

Wanting to end this week’s installment on an upbeat note, as well as providing fodder for your summer reading list, I was recently listening to the id10t podcast and happened upon an interview with astronaut Leland Melvin, who navigated a number of personal and profession barriers to become the first person to play in the NFL and go into space as an astronaut. His book, Chasing Space, is a fun and thought-provoking read and really captures the essence of what we, as safety professionals, often face in terms of barrier management. I would encourage you to check out the book as well as the interview. As a side note, I’m not sure if you folks would all be familiar with Chris Hardwick and his Nerdist empire, but I think he’s become a most winning and empathetic interviewer, and since I’ve never been afraid to embrace my inner (and outer) nerd, I will leave you with that recommendation (and please, if you folks have stuff that you’re reading and think would be worth sharing with our little safety community, please do—fiction, non-fiction—a good read is a good read!)

Not enough rounding in the world: Compliance and readiness in the face of everyday chaos…

As I was engaged in my walk this morning (the sun just starting to cast its light on the Rockies!), I was pondering the complexities of the healthcare environment as a function of compliance. One of the truisms of my practice is that I am good at finding those points where things don’t quite gel. Sometimes (most times, to be honest), it’s relatively minor stuff (which we know is where most of the survey findings “live”) and every once in a while (mostly because my eyes are “fresh” and can pick out the stuff that’s happened over time; as I like to say, squalor happens incrementally), you find some bigger vulnerabilities (maybe it’s a gap in tracking code changes or a process that’s really not doing what you need it to do). So, after tooling around for a couple of days, folks will inevitably ask me “what do you look for?” and I will stumble through something like “I try to find things that are out of place” or something like that.

This morning, I had something of an epiphany in how that question actually informs what I do: it’s not so much what I look for, it’s what I look “at.” And that “at,” my friends, is everything in a space. One of the process element that gets drilled into housekeeping folks (I’m pretty sure this is still the case, it definitely was back in 1978 when I started this journey), is to check your work before you go on to the next thing, and that means going back over everything you were supposed to do. I’ve had conversations with folks about what tools I’ve seen that have been effective (and I do believe in the usefulness of tools for keeping track of certain problematic or high-risk conditions), but only in very rare circumstances have I “relied” on a tool because I have an abject fear of missing something critical because I had a set of queries, if you will. I would submit to you that, from a compliance standpoint, there are few more complex environments in which to provide oversight than healthcare. It is anything but static (almost everything except for the walls can move—and does!) and in that constant motion is the kernel of complication that makes the job of facilities safety professional infinitely frustrating and infinitely rewarding.

So, I guess what I’m advising is not to limit your vision to “for,” but strive for “at everything—and if you can impart that limitless vision to the folks who occupy your organization’s environment, you will have something quite powerful.

 

There’s always someone looking at you: More emergency preparedness!

Once again, we tread the halls of emergency preparedness in search of context for some recent developments. I guess it is not inappropriate that this has become a more frequently touched upon subject, but I am hopeful that the weather patterns of last summer remain a distant memory, though the current situation in Hawaii does give one pause as a function of shifting likelihoods. At any rate, sending positive thoughts and vibrations to the folks in our 50th state in hopes that the tectonic manifestations will slow to a reasonable level.

First up, a couple of words about the recent unveiling of NFPA 3000 Standard for an Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program. I have no doubt that any number of you have been working very diligently towards establishment of an ASHER Program within your organizations. And I suspect that you have encountered some of the same resistors when it comes time to try and actually conduct a practical exercise to see how effective (or not) the response might be (I can’t think of too many other exercise scenarios that could be more potentially disruptive to normal operations, but I think therein lies the most compelling reasons for wanting/needing to exercise this scenario). I’ve participated in/monitored a couple of these exercises and I will tell you firsthand that it’s tough to get really good results on that first try. Folks are nervous and tentative and there’ll be a whole host of folks who won’t be as inclined to participate in the exercise as you might want (and really don’t seem too concerned when they fall victim to the shooter—there is nothing quite like the indifference that can be experienced during these types of exercises), but you really must forge on. To my mind, beyond the likely survey scrutiny driven by the Sentinel Event Alert, this type of scenario falls squarely in the realm of “most likely to experience, least well prepared to respond” and the longer it takes to begin making substantive changes to your response plan—based on actual data generated through exercises—the further behind the curve it will be if there is an event in your community (an event that has become increasingly likely, pretty much no matter where you are).

As to the standard, I don’t know that NFPA 3000 brings anything particularly new to the party, but it does provide a codified reference point for a lot of the work we’re already doing. You need only to check out the table of contents for the standard to see some familiar concepts—risk assessment, planning/coordination, resource management, incident management, training, etc. I do think that where this will become most useful as a means of further integration of our preparedness and planning activities with those of our local community(ies). We need to be/get better prepared to respond to the chaos that is integral to such an event and hopefully this will provide common ground for continued program growth.

As an aside relative to all things EM, there is an indication that our friends from Chicago are starting to kick the tires a little more frequently when it comes to ensuring that all the required plan elements are in place. There is a truism that the survey tends to focus more on what has changed than on what has remained the same, as we’ve noted in the past, TJC has added a few things to the mix, so you want to make sure you have:

  • Continuity of operations planning, including succession planning and delegation of authority during emergencies
  • A process for requesting (and managing) an 1135 waiver to address care and treatment at an alternate care site
  • A plan/process for sheltering patients, staff, and visitors during an emergency, as applicable
  • Evidence that all your outlying clinic, etc., settings have participated in your emergency response exercises or actual events

I know there are instances in which some of these might not apply, but you need to be very diligent in outlining how and why these elements would not be applicable to your organization. I think the only one noted above that really could be dependent on your organization is if you don’t have any care locations outside of your main campus. But beyond that, all those other elements need to be in a place that the surveyors can find them. And don’t be afraid to reiterate the language in the applicable individual performance elements—fleshing out the process is a good idea, but you want them to be able to “see” how what you have in your plan reflects what is being required. I continue to maintain that hospitals do a very good job when it comes to emergency management, but there is also always room for improvement. I don’t want our improvement processes to get derailed by a draconian survey result, so make sure the “new” stuff has been captured and added to your Emergency Operations Plan (EOP).

Why can’t we have anything nice? Hardwiring safety improvements: Finding fault vs. facilitation

It seems of late I’ve been encountering tales of much fingerpointing, heavy sighs, and the like in the lead-up to a date with our friends from Chicago. To my way of thinking, if there are outstanding/longstanding issues relating to compliance (and it can be just about anything relative to compliance), how much help can it be to keep pointing out the deficiency without working with folks to find some sort of rational/operational strategy for managing their environment? For example, where can one put stuff? I’ve been working the consulting beat for almost 17 years (as I wrap up my 40th year in healthcare—more on that as we approach that momentous July anniversary) and I can tell you with pretty much absolute certainty that there is not a single hospital anywhere that has enough (which would equate to too much) storage space. Clearly some of that deficit is a function of revenue generation potential as an algorithm for space allocation, but even your biggest money-makers tend to have more stuff than space. But I come back to the reality of kicking department managers for the same compliance concern(s) time and time again and (again, this is my interpretation) it just seems like a buck-passing exercise for the folks conducting the rounds— “well, I told them they couldn’t do that—and they keep doing it.” And try as I might, I can’t equate that type of process with anything that approaches performance improvement.

While I recognize (and observe in certain instances) that organizations have made, and continue to make, improvements over time, what is important is not to lose sight of the hardwiring of processes that are designed to sustain those improvements. As noted in the storage example, the physical plant is traditionally not considered a revenue generating concern, but the impact of ongoing maintenance of the physical environment on the delivery of excellent patient care has never been scrutinized more closely. It is of critical importance to develop and implement strategies that allow for those tasked with maintaining the physical environment to focus on those tasks, utilizing point-of-care/point-of-service staff to the fullest extent in the not just identifying, but facilitating management of “imperfections” in the environment.

Not to belabor the point, but the current level of focus on conditions in the physical environment, particularly as a function of the environment’s impact on infection control and prevention, calls for a greater degree of coordination amongst the primary stakeholders. While there is no specific dictate relating to the circumstances under which infection control risk assessments must be conducted; risk management strategies implemented (either through a hardwiring of basic risk reduction in standard operating procedures for certain activities, including repair and renovation activities on patient units), and a reliable process for notification of, and follow-up for, conditions that might nominally be described as “breaks” in the integrity of the environment. Certainly, the proliferation of leaks, stained ceiling tiles, damaged wall and flooring surfaces, etc., would indicate that the current management of this process does not provide enough of a “safety net” to serve the organization and its mission of continuous survey readiness. At this point, the administration of the survey process is clearly aimed at the removal of the “final” barriers between “clinical” and “non-clinical” functions in hospitals. The survey process is based on a clear sense/understanding that the entire hospital staff is engaged in patient care, regardless of their role in that care. The organizations that fare the best during survey are the organizations that have been able to grow the culture in a direction that results in a truly seamless management of the environment as the outer “ring” of the patient care continuum. Each staff member is a caregiver; each staff member is a steward of the physical environment.

I don’t think we can ever hope to be successful until we starting working towards a sheriff-less approach (based on that old saw “There’s a new sheriff in town”). One of the fundamentals of just culture is holding folks accountable, but not without working with them to achieve that nirvana state. I think if punishment (I consider reiteration of sins to be punishment) worked, we’d have a lot fewer findings in the physical environment. I can remember a time when you could get away with a more dictatorial approach to managing the environment, but I don’t think that time is coming back any time soon.

Unfortunately, the regulatory folks aren’t quite poised to embrace the facilitation/consultation model of accreditation surveying, which leads me to my closing thought/suggestion for this week. I am still “anxious” about the whole water management program issue as a function of the accreditation survey process and how it will play out. I’ve heard (but not seen) that TJC has cited folks for (presumably) inadequate water management programs, and I’ve learned over time that these types and numbers of findings tend to escalate before they de-escalate. Certainly, this is something we have to “do” very well, because to do otherwise puts people at risk. As I have in the past, I would encourage you to check out Matt Freije’s latest thoughts on all things water management programs. I suspect that everyone is a different point along the “curve” with this one, but I know one thing—you don’t want to have an outbreak relating to the management of waterborne pathogens. Talk about being “sheriffed”…

What the world needs now: Effective management of workplace violence

By now I’m sure you’ve all noted the unveiling of the latest Sentinel Event Alert (#59 for those of you keeping count) from our friends in Chicago; this particular SEA represents the third swing at concerns and considerations relative to workplace safety, inclusive of workplace violence. But, as I look at the information and guidance provided in the May 2018 issue of Perspectives, it makes me wonder what pieces of this remain elusive to folks, beyond the “normal” operational challenges of providing effective safety education to staff on a regular basis.

So, my questions for the group are these:

  • Have you clearly defined workplace violence?
  • Have you put systems into place across your organization that enable staff to report workplace violence events, inclusive of verbal abuse?
  • Have you identified all the potential sources of data relative to workplace violence occurrences?
  • Are you capturing, tracking, and trending all reports of workplace violence, inclusive of verbal abuse and attempted assaults, when no harm occurred?
  • Are you providing appropriate follow-up and support to victims, witnesses, and others impacted by workplace violence, including psychological counseling and trauma-informed care?
  • Are you reviewing each case of workplace violence to determine the contributing factors?
  • Are you analyzing data related to workplace violence, and worksite conditions, to determine priority situations for intervention?
  • Have you developed any quality improvement initiatives to reduce incidents of workplace violence?
  • Have you provided education to all staff in de-escalation, self-defense, and response to emergency codes?
  • Are you evaluating on an ongoing basis the effectiveness of your workplace violence reduction initiatives?

If your response to any of these questions is “no” or “not sure,” it’s probably worth (at the very least) some discussion time at your EOC and/or organizational QAPI committee, but I have a strong suspicion that most of you have already identified the component pieces identified above in your own efforts. That’s not to say that there aren’t improvement opportunities relative to workplace violence (as there likely always will be), but I do think we’ve made some pretty decent strides in this regard over the past few years. There was a time when the incidence rate was sufficiently concentrated to certain healthcare environments (cities, urban areas, etc.), but, and this is probably the toughest risk element to truly manage, it appears that workplace violence can happen at any time, anywhere. In some ways, it reminds me of the early days of the Bloodborne Pathogens standard and Universal Precautions; it was frequently a struggle for safety and infection control folks to sufficiently encourage good behaviors (and lord knows hand washing can still be a struggle), but much of what was initially viewed as foreign, inconvenient, etc. has finally been (something close to) hardwired into behaviors.

Again, I’m not convinced that this revisitation of covered territory helps anything more than increasing the risks of getting hammered during a survey if you can’t specifically identify how your program reflects their expert advice, but maybe it will help to gently remind organizational leaders that this one’s not going to go away.

Only dimly aware of a certain unease in the air: Thoughts on succession planning and other EManations

Lately, as I field questions from folks regarding potential survey vulnerabilities relating to emergency management, I keep coming back to the importance of succession planning. And, interestingly enough, I’ve found that succession planning can have a very big impact on other processes in the physical environment.

Certainly, the most critical aspect of succession planning revolves around insuring that you have sufficient numbers of prepared competent incident command staff—in this age of frequent shifts in organizational leadership, etc., you can hit some really lean times when it comes to having appropriately knowledgeable folks in the bunker with you during emergency response activities. And with this recent spate of emergency response activations lasting days instead of hours and weeks instead of days, you really need to have enough bench strength to move folks in and out of roles, getting them a little downtime, etc. I think it is only natural(ly unnatural) to rely on a fairly finite cadre of individuals who you know can “bring it,” regardless of what’s going on, but I think the challenge as we move forward is to expand on those core folks and move towards access to incident command staff across all shifts. If you think of it in terms of a basic continuity of operations plan (after all, you need folks to be able to continue operations), a seamless philosophy, etc., would seem the best strategy. And, to that end, I have a question for you folks out there in radioland—do you have a standardized approach to providing education to your incident command folks? Is it the basic FEMA and associated stuff? Or have you found something else? I’d be really keen to hear what you’re doing to ensure reasonable competence, etc., in your response activities.

Another way in which succession planning can have an impact on general compliance are those instances in which critical processes are “owned” by one individual in an organization. And when that individual takes time off, or even leaves the organization, sometimes the stuff they were doing falls through the cracks. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run into instances when eyewash checks, fire pump tests, preventive maintenance for equipment, etc., went undone because the person responsible didn’t (or wasn’t able to) make a handoff. As you can probably figure out, surveyors are not going to look too kindly upon these kinds of gaps and with the threshold for findings being at such a low point, you really only need a couple of “drops” before you’re looking at survey troubles. I would imagine that those of you with work order systems can engineer a failsafe into the process so if someone is off, it’s easy to discern that the activity needs to be reassigned. But what if you pay to send someone to school to learn how to maintain a certain piece (or pieces) of equipment and that individual leaves the organization and you (potentially) without a service contract for the equipment in question because you brought it “in house”? These are all real life examples of how the best laid plans of facilities/safety professionals can go astray. Specialized knowledge and skill is rather a premium at the moment and you want to be sure you have processes in place that will withstand attrition (in all its glories).

Next week, I want to talk a little bit about how folks are managing construction projects. You know me: I never miss an opportunity for some ponderings…

It was a fine idea at the time: Safety story of the week!

Now it’s a brilliant…

I think we’ve hung out together long enough for you to recognize that I have some geeky tendencies when it comes to safety and related things, sometimes straying beyond the realm of health care. And this is (pretty much definitely) one of those instances.

Over the weekend, while listening to NPR, I happened upon a story regarding safety concerns at the Tesla factory out in California and how operating at the brink (cusp?) of what’s possible can still fall victim to some time-honored realities of the workplace. The story, coordinated by The Center for Investigative Reporting, and aired on their program Reveal (you can find the story, and a link to the podcast of the story here) aims at shedding some light on some folks injured while employed at Tesla. While I can’t say that there’s the figurative “smoking gun” relative to decisions made, but it does seem to fall under the category of “you can make the numbers dance to whatever tune you’d care to play.” I thought it was a very well-done piece and while there may not be specific application to your workplace, I figure you can always learn from what others are (or aren’t) doing. At any rate, I can’t tell the story as well as they have (the podcast lasts about 55 minutes; the SoundCloud link is about halfway down the page), so I would encourage you to give it a listen.

One other quick item for your consideration: We chatted a few weeks ago about the shifting sands of compliance relative to emergency generator equipment and I wanted to note that I think it would be a pretty good idea to pick up a copy of the 2010 edition of NFPA 110 (it’s not that large a tome) or at the very least, go online and use NFPA’s free access to their code library, and familiarize yourself with the contents. Much as I “fear” will be the case with NFPA 99, I think there are probably some subtleties in 110 that might get lost in the shuffle, particularly when it comes to the contractors and vendors with whom we do business. Recently, I was checking out an emergency generator set that was designed and installed in the last couple of years and, lo and behold, found that the remote stop had not been installed in a location outside of the generator enclosure. Now I know that one of the things you’re paying for is a reasonably intimate knowledge of the applicable code and regulation, and emergency power stuff would be no exception (by any stretch of the imagination) and it perturbed me that the folks doing the install (not naming names, but trust me, this was no mom & pop operation that might not have known better) failed to ensure compliance with the code. Fortunately, it was identified before any “official” survey visits, but it’s still going to require some doing to get things up to snuff.

I have no reason to think that there aren’t other “easter eggs” lurking in the pages of the various and sundry codified elements brought on by the adoption of the 2012 Life Safety Code®, so if you happen to find any, feel free to give us all a shout.

And you may find yourself in another part of the survey process (more HazMat fun)

And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?

As is sometimes the case, I like to respond to questions from the “studio” audience and last week I received a question from the field that I think is worth a few inches of verbiage here. The question, as luck would have it, relates to the ascendancy of EC.02.02.01 (with 63% of the hospitals being surveyed taking hits), the management of hazardous materials and wastes.

While it may seem a little incongruous, with a side order of daunting, I think that the primary reason for the ascendance of EC.02.02.01 is that there are any number of things that can generate findings, particularly from the clinical surveyors (not that the LS surveyor couldn’t find stuff, but from what I’ve seen in recent survey reports, a lot of the HazMat findings are being generated during “regular” tracers). So, in no particular order:

  • emergency eyewash equipment (availability/accessibility/documentation of testing & maintenance)
  • availability and use of personal protective equipment (PPE) in accordance with product Safety Data Sheets (SDS)
  • management of hazardous energy sources, particularly as it relates to managing lead PPE;
  • labeling of secondary containers
  • management of hazardous gases and vapors (particularly as a function of ventilation, but also monitoring if you happen to have folks still using glutaraldehyde and/or cadmium-based products)
  • ensuring appropriate staff education is in place, particularly Department of Transportation education for staff signing manifests
  • with the odd issue relating to staff being able to competently access SDS

We’ve certainly spent our fair share of time talking about eyewash equipment (surveyors are as prone to over-interpretation as anyone, so you better have a clearly articulated risk assessment in your back pocket), and, interestingly enough, on May 31 (my birthday!), the folks at HCPro are hosting a webinar on the evergreen topic of eyewash stations, so you may want to give that look-see (listen-hear?).

I think the stuff surveyors are kicking folks on is pretty straightforward. I mean, just think about unlabeled or inappropriately labeled secondary containers—what’s the likelihood that you’ve got one out there somewhere in your organization? An unlabeled spray bottle; a biohazard container for which the label was washed off—lots of opportunities for the process to come up short.

At any rate, the list above is representative of what I’ve seen (in consulting practice and in actual survey reports). Anybody have any other potential findings that they’ve seen?

While I hate to do anything to muddy the waters…with paper clips!

Or ear buds…

In the absence of anything particularly controversial on the regulatory front, I tend to go back and cover “old” ground just to see if there are any new resources, altered realities, etc. So, last week I was doing some work that involved helping folks with their ligature risk assessment and was pondering the availability of ligature-resistant fire alarm notification appliances. This pondering led me to my usual primary source for such things, The Design Guide for the Built Behavioral Health Environment (now an offering from the Facilities Guidelines Institute); we’ve discussed the particulars of the Design Guide on any number of occasions, most recently back in late 2016, and hopefully by now everyone has obtained a copy for their e-library. At any rate, I was poking around looking for ligature-resistant fire alarm notification appliances and, lo and behold, I couldn’t find any.

So (as I am wont to do) I headed off to the Googlesphere to see what might be out and about and (in yet another lo and behold moment) found the latest edition of the New York State Office of Mental Health’s Patient Safety Standards, Materials and Systems Guide. As near as I can tell from the webpage, this is the 19th edition of this particular guide, though I will tell you that this is my first encounter and I think it’s pretty spiffy (I’m guessing you folks in the Empire State knew about this and kept it to yourselves…). One of the most interesting elements is that it covers what they recommend (including whether they’ve found the products, etc., to be effective based on the acuity of the setting), but they also list stuff that they have tested and found does not work as advertised (I will admit to being fascinated with the idea that some of these ligature-resistant products can be defeated by strategies as simple as paper clips and/or ear buds—I guess necessity remains the mother of invention). Admittedly, there could be different philosophies in other jurisdictions, but I can really appreciate the thought, analysis, and general effort that went in to this resource and I think the risks/benefits/alternatives are sufficiently clear cut that you could communicate the issues very effectively to those reluctant surveyor types. At any rate, I encourage you (yet again) to add this one to your resource library.

I’ve also learned that as folks work through the various and sundry parameters of the regulatory guidance sets floating around, folks have been considering the management of risks in relatively unsecured (at least in terms of ligature-resistance) common areas (lobbies, stairwells, offices), which (surprise, surprise surprise!) got me to thinking…

I think the appropriate strategy for these other areas needs to start with whatever clinical assessment/determination would need to occur before patients would be able to access unsecured common areas; to my mind, patients that are legitimately at risk of self-harm either need to have services come to them on the secured units or they are sufficiently escorted (sufficiently meaning enough folks to control a situation should it start to get out of hand). By nature, every organization has areas of greater and lesser levels of security, so the “burden of the process” (if you will) is to ensure that patients are not unilaterally exposed to risks greater than their (or, indeed, our) capacity to manage them. While the minimization of physical risk is a safety “function,” ensuring that patients are managed in an appropriate environment is a clinical “function” based on the needs/condition, etc., of the patients. For example, if a patient is clinically “well” enough to have access to the advocate beyond the advocate coming to see them on the unit, then my expectation would be that that determination would be made by the clinical folks, with full knowledge of the involved risks. I think (at least until CMS or someone else provides additional/different interpretations) that going with the stratification used by The Joint Commission, which for all intents and purposes parses out into inpatient psychiatric unit environments, acute care inpatient environments and emergency department environments, should remain the focus of your assessment and risk management activities. After all, the clinical management of the patient must work in concert with efforts to decrease risk in the environment and vice versa—everyone working together is the only thing that’s going to bring us success (which is rather a common strategy…).

Inadvertent inundations: Oh, what fun! 2017 most frequently stubbed toes during survey!

As luck would have it, the latest (April 2018) edition of Perspectives landed on the door step the other day (it’s really tough to pull off the home delivery option now that it is an all-electronic publication) and included therein is not a ton of EC/LS/EM content unless you count (which, of course, we do) the listings of the most frequently cited standards during the 2017 survey season. And, to the continued surprise of absolutely no one that is paying attention, conditions and practices related to the physical environment occupy all 10 of the top spots (I remain firm in my “counting” IC.02.02.01 as a physical environment standard—it’s the intersection of IC and the environment and always will be IMHO).

While there are certainly no surprises as to how this list sorts itself out (though I am a little curious/concerned about the rise of fire alarm and suppression system inspection, testing & maintenance documentation rising to the top spot—makes me wonder what little code-geeky infraction brought on by the adoption of the updated Life Safety Code® and other applicable NFPA standards has been the culprit—maybe some of it is related to annual door inspection activities cited before CMS extended the initial compliance due date), it clearly signals that the surveying of the physical environment is going to be a significant focus for the survey process until such time as it starts to decline in “fruit-bearing.” I do wish that there was a way to figure out for sure which of the findings are coming via the LS survey or during those pesky patient tracer activities (documentation is almost certainly the LS surveyor and I’d wager that a lot of the safe, functional environment findings are coming from tracers), but I guess that’s a data set just beyond our grasp. For those of you interested in how things “fell,” let’s do the numbers (cue: Stormy Weather):

  • #1 with an 86% finding rate – documentation of fire alarm and suppression systems
  • #2 with a 73% finding rate – managing utility systems risks
  • #3 with a 72% finding rate – maintenance of smoke and other lesser barrier elements
  • #4 with a 72% finding rate – risk of infections associated with equipment and supplies
  • #5 with a 70% finding rate – safe, functional environment
  • #6 with a 66% finding rate – maintenance of fire and other greater barrier elements
  • #7 with a 63% finding rate – hazardous materials risk stuff
  • #8 with a 62% finding rate – integrity of egress
  • #9 with a 62% finding rate – inspection, testing & maintenance of utility systems equipment
  • #10 with a 59% finding rate – inspection, testing & maintenance of medical gas & vacuum systems equipment

Again, I can’t imagine that you folks are at all surprised by this, so I guess my question for you all would be this: Does this make you think about changing your organization’s preparation activities or are you comfortable with giving up a few “small” findings and avoiding anything that would get you into big trouble? I don’t know that I’ve heard of any recent surveys in which there were zero findings in the environment (if so, congratulations! And perhaps most importantly: What’s your secret?), so it does look like this is going to be the list for the next little while.