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Reefing a sail at the edge of the world…

What to do, what to do, what to do…

A couple of CMS-related items for your consideration this week, both of which appear to be rather user-friendly toward accredited organizations. (Why do I have this nagging feeling that this is going to result in some sort of ugly backlash for hospitals?)

Back in May, we discussed the plans CMS had for requiring accreditation organizations (AOs) to make survey results public, and it appears that, upon what I can only imagine was intense review and consideration, the CMS-ers have elected to pull back from that strategy. The decision, according to news sources, is based on the sum and substance of a portion of Section 1865 of the Social Security Act, which states:

(b) The Secretary may not disclose any accreditation survey (other than a survey with respect to a home health agency) made and released to the Secretary by the American Osteopathic Association or any other national accreditation body, of an entity accredited by such body, except that the Secretary may disclose such a survey and information related to such a survey to the extent such survey and information relate to an enforcement action taken by the Secretary.

So, that pretty much brings that whole thing to a screeching halt—nice work of whoever tracked that one down. Every once in a while, law and statute work in favor of the little folk. So, we Lilliputians salute whomever tracked that one down—woohoo!

In other CMS news, the Feds issued a clarification relative to the annual inspection of smoke barrier doors (turns out the LSC does not specifically require this for smoke doors in healthcare occupancies) as well as delaying the drop-dead date for initial compliance with the requirements relating to the annual inspection of fire doors. January 1, 2018 is the new date. If you haven’t gotten around to completing the fire door inspection, I would heartily recommend you do so as soon as you can—more on that in a moment. So, good news on two fed fronts—it’s almost like Christmas in August! But I do have a couple of caveats…

I am aware of 2017 surveys since July in which findings were issued because the inspection process had not been completed, and, based on past knowledge, etc., it is unlikely that those findings would be “removable” based on the extended initial compliance date. (CMS strongly indicates that once a survey finding is issued in a report, the finding should stay, even if there was compliance at the time of survey.) So hopefully this will not cause too much heartburn for folks.

The other piece of this is performance element #2 under the first standard in the Life Safety chapter. (This performance element is not based on anything specifically required by the LSC or the Conditions of Participation—yet another instance of our Chicagoan friends increasing the degree of difficulty for ensuring compliance without having a whole mess of statutory support, but I digress.) The requirement therein is for organizations to perform a building assessment to determine compliance with the Life Safety chapter—and this is very, very important—in time frames defined by the hospital. I will freely admit that this one didn’t really jump out at me until recently, and my best advice is to get going with defining the time frame for doing those building assessments; it kind of “smells” like a combination of a Building Maintenance Program (BMP) and Focused Standards Assessment (FSA), so this might not be that big a deal, though I think I would encourage you to make very sure that you clearly indicate the completion of this process, even if you are using the FSA process as the framework for doing so. In fact, that might be one way to go about it—the building assessment to determine compliance with the Life Safety chapter will be completed as a function of the annual FSA process. I can’t imagine that TJC would “buy” anything less than a triennial frequency, but the performance element does not specify, so maybe, just maybe…

But I got the crystal ball, he said!

And he held it to the light…

In their (seemingly) never-ending quest to remain something (I’m not quite sure what that something might be, but I suspect it has to do with continuing bouts of hot water and CMS), our friends in Chicago are working towards modifying the process/documentation for providing post-survey Evidence of Standards Compliance (for the remainder of this piece, I will refer to the acronymically inclined ESC). The aim of the changes is to “help organizations focus on detailing the critical aspects of corrective actions take to resolve” deficiencies identified during survey. Previously, the queries included for appropriate ESC submittals revolved around the following: identifying who was ultimately responsible for the corrective action(s); what actions were completed to correct the finding(s); when the corrective actions were completed; and, how will you sustain compliance (that is, as they say, the sticky wicket, to be sure).

The future state will be (more or less) an expansion of those concerns, as well as including extra-special consideration for those findings identified as higher-risk Requirements For Improvement (RFIs) based on their “position” in the matrix thingy in your final report (findings that show up in the dark orange and red areas of the matrix). The changes are roughly characterized as delving “deeper into the specifics” of the original gang of four elements, so now we have the following: assigning accountability by indicating who is ultimately responsible for corrective action and sustained compliance (not a big change for that one); assigning accountability for leadership involvement (only for the high-risk findings—whew!) by indicating which member(s) of leadership support future compliance; corrective actions for the findings of noncompliance—this will combine the “what you did” with the “when you finished it”; for high-risk findings, you will also have to provide information on the corrective actions as a function of preventative analysis (this sounds like a big ol’ pain in the rumpus room, don’t it?); and , finally, an accounting of how you will ensure sustained compliance, which will have to include monitoring activities (including frequency), the type of data to be collected from the monitoring activities, and how, and to whom, the data will be reported.

In the past, there was always the lurking (almost ghoulish) presence of what’s going to happen if you have repeat findings from survey to survey, and this new process sounds like it might be paving the way for more obstreperous future survey outcomes. But I’d like to know a little bit more about what might be considered a repeat finding—does it have to be the same condition in the same place or is it enough to get cited for the same standard/performance element combo. If the former is the case, then I “get” them being a little more fussy about the process (in full recognition that every organization has some repeat-offender tendencies), but if it’s the latter, then (insert deity of choice) help us all, ‘cause it’s probably going to get more ugly before we see improvement. Or maybe it will just be repeats in the high-risk zone of the matrix—I think that’s also pretty reasonable, though I do think they (the Chicagoans) could do a little better in ensuring consistent approaches/interpretations, particularly when it comes to ligature risks.

All that said, I stand on my thought (and let me tell you, that’s not an easy task) that there are no perfect buildings, no perfect physical environments, etc., and that’s pretty much supported by what I’ve seen being cited during surveys—the rough edges are where the greatest number of findings can be generated. And since they only have to find one instance of any condition in order to generate an RFI, the numbers are not in favor of the folks who have to maintain the physical environment. If you’re interested in the official notice, the links below will take you the announcement article, as well as a delightful graphic presentation—oh boy!

If brevity is the soul of wit…

Hope everyone enjoyed a festive and (most importantly) safe Independence Day—with any luck, today (July 5) does not mark the end of summer (as some do say) so much as it marks the beginning of the end of spring (up here in the Northeast, spring was loath to depart, but it does seem that pre-autumn weather has finally made a commitment to spending some time in the northern hemisphere).

I was looking recently at past blog posts for a reference to the CMS stance on law enforcement interactions with patients as a function of restraints and patient rights—always a fun topic—and I noted that the posts used to be a mite briefer than tends to be the case of late. (You can be the judge of whether my decline in brevity has left me soulless or witless.) I absolutely recognize that there’s been a lot of stuff to cover over the past 18 months with the firestorms of compliance that swept the healthcare environment, which has (no doubt) promoted some of the “volume” of bloggery. But it has caused me to wonder whether I am consuming the compliance elephant in sufficiently small bites to be of use to you folks out there in the field. As near as I can tell, the purpose of this whole thing (as much as I enjoy having a place to pontificate) is to provide information and thoughts on what is happening at the moment to you, my faithful audience of safety folk. And (as near as I can tell) it never hurts to ask one’s audience whether this works for you—please feel free to give me an e-dope slap if you think the “Space” has gone intergalactic in a less-than-useful way. At any rate, I am going to experiment with smaller bites of information in the coming weeks so you’ll have more time for other things—perhaps outdoors…

As far as news goes, things are relatively quiet as we observe the anniversary of CMS’s adoption of the 2012 Life Safety Code. Hopefully you all have done your NFPA 99 risk assessments; polished off those door inspections and are speeding towards the completion of activities relating to initial compliance with the Emergency Preparedness Final Rule. Health Facilities Management This Week discussed some prepublication EC/LS standards relating to the testing of emergency lighting systems; inspection and testing of piped medical gas and vacuum systems; and updating pertinent NFPA code numbers. The pre-pub stuff is aimed at behavioral health care, laboratory, nursing care center, and office based surgery accreditation programs. You can find the details here: https://www.jointcommission.org/prepublication_standards_%E2%80%93_standards_revisions_to_environment_of_care_and_life_safety_chapters_related_to_life_safety_code_update_/

(I guess some of those links are about as brief as I am…)

Thanks, as always, for tuning in—I really appreciate having you all out there at the other end of the interweb…see you next week!

Plan be nimble, plan be quick

As we have discussed (pretty much ad nauseum) in this hallowed hall of electrons, there is likely to be a renewed (and I don’t mean renewed in a healthful way, this would be more like a subscription to a magazine that someone sent you as a prank) interest/scrutiny in how you and your organization are complying with all these lovely (and pesky, can’t forget pesky) new emergency management considerations. But there is one word of caution that I wanted to inject into the conversation, and while it probably doesn’t “need” to be said, I try not to leave any card unplayed when it comes to compliance activities.

Over the years (officially 16 of consulting—time flies!) I have found that sometimes (OK, maybe more frequently than sometimes), the prettiest plans, policies, procedures, etc. end up falling to the ground in demonic spasms because they did not accurately reflect the practice of the organization. The general mantra for this is “do the right thing, do what you say, say what you do,” but sometimes it’s tough to figure out exactly what constitutes “the right thing” (as opposed to “The Right Stuff,” natch). When it comes to emergency preparedness, response, recovery, etc. probably the single most important aspect of the plan (at least I think it’s an aspect—if you can think of a better descriptor, please sing out!) is that it is flexible enough to be able to react to minute-by-minute changes that are (frequently) the hallmark of catastrophic events. I think anyone who has worked in healthcare for any length of time has seen what happens to a rigid structure, be it policy, plan, expectations, buildings, flora and fauna—whatever, when things get to swirling around in intense fashion—things start to pull apart (figuratively and/or literally) and sustaining your response becomes that much more difficult.

So, as we “embrace” the challenges of the changes, I would encourage you to think about how you’ll maintain (and test during exercises) that flexibility of response that will give you enough wiggle room to weather the storms (of outrageous and other fabulous fortune). Exercise scenarios can push (or be pushed) in any number of directions (strangely, it is very much like real life)—make sure you take full advantage of those folks in the Command Center—if they’re not sweating—turn up the heat!

And then came the last days of May…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Come on, I Lean: Do you Lean?

As you are no doubt aware by now, there’s been a wee bit of a shift in this forum away from all things Joint Commission, as the CMSers seem more inclined to assert themselves in the accreditation market place. I personally have had a lot of work this year in follow-up activities relating to CMS visits and one of the structural/organizational vulnerabilities/opportunities that seem to be cropping with some regularity are those relating to the integration of the physical environment program into organizational Quality Assessment/Performance Improvement (hereafter referred to as QAPI, pronounced “Kwoppee”—I think you’re going to find that you’ll be hearing that term a lot in the coming years/decades) activities. This very much goes back to a topic we discussed back in January (it’s funny, when I started looking for the link to this story, I could have sworn that we had covered this within the last month) relative to making sure that organizational leadership is abundantly familiar with any issues that are (more or less) “stuck” in your safety committee. There is no “sin” in admitting that there are or may be improvement opportunities for which traction in making those improvements is a little slippery—you have to have a means of escalating things to point where reasonable traction is possible. So, from a regulatory standpoint, this all falls under §482.21 Condition of Participation: Quality Assessment and Performance Improvement, which includes the rejoinder: “The hospital must develop, implement, and maintain an effective, ongoing, hospital-wide, data-driven quality assessment and performance improvement program. The hospital’s governing body must ensure that the program reflects the complexity of the hospital’s organization and services; involves all hospital departments and services (including those services furnished under contract or arrangement); and focuses on indicators related to improved health outcomes and the prevention and reduction of medical errors.”

Now, I can tell you that this is a very big deal, particularly when it comes to the reporting up of data, occurrence reporting, etc.—even from the likes of our little world of physical environment safety and related topics. And sometimes you have to be willing to throw some light on those process areas that are not performing as you would want them to; improvement doesn’t typically happen in a vacuum and that absence of vacuum tends to require a fair amount of conversation/collaboration (with some resultant caterwauling) in order to make things happen/get things done.

One QAPI topic you will probably be hearing about (if you have not already) is Lean methodology, which pretty much embraces the general concept of reducing “waste” while still delivering positive service outcomes by focusing on what the customer wants (you can find some useful highlights here; the books are worth a look—perhaps your local library can hook you up). One organization that appears to be endorsing the Lean methodology is that kooky bunch in Chicago and while the article focuses on behavioral health, I think there is enough practical information to be worth a look. And, since we know from past experience that TJC tends to adopt a more pervasive stance when it comes to these types of things, I think it would be very useful (at the very least for those of you using TJC for accreditation) to be conversant in Lean. It’s probably going to rock your boat at some point—life preservers mandatory!

Or the light that never warms

Continuing in our somewhat CMS-centric trajectory, I did want to touch upon one last topic (for the moment) as it portends some angst in the field. A couple of weeks ago (April 14, 2017, to be exact), the friendly folks at CMS issued notice of a proposed regulation change focusing on how Accrediting Organizations (AO) communicate survey results to the general public (you can find the details of the notice here).

At present, the various AOs do not make survey results and subsequent corrective action plans available to the general public, but apparently the intent is for that to change. So, using the Joint Commission data from 2016 as test data, it seems that a lot of folks are going to be highlighted in a manner that is not going to paint the prettiest picture. As we covered last week, hospitals and other healthcare organizations are not CMS’ customers, so their interest is pretty much solely in making sure that their customers are able to obtain information that may be helpful in making healthcare decisions. Returning to the Joint Commission data from last year, pretty much at least 50% of the hospitals surveyed will be “portrayed” as having issues in the environment (I’m standing by my prediction that those numbers are going to increase before they decrease—a prediction about which I will be more than happy to be incorrect). Now, the stated goal of this whole magillah is to improve the quality and safety of services provided to patients (can’t argue with that as a general concept), but I’m not entirely certain how memorializing a missed fire extinguisher check at an outpatient clinic or a missed weekly eyewash station check is going to help patients figure out where they want to obtain healthcare. So, I guess the question becomes one of how the folks we hire to assist with accreditation services (the folks for whom we are the customers) are going to share this information in the name of transparency? (Though I suppose if you were really diligent, it might be a little easier to discern trends in survey findings if you’re of a mind to dig through all the survey results.) It will be interesting to see how this plays out; I can’t imagine that they’d be able to publish survey results particularly quickly (I would think they would have to wait until the corrective action plan/evidence of standards compliance process worked itself through).

As with so many things related to the survey process, I understand what they are trying to do (begging the question: Is transparency always helpful?), but I’m not quite catching how this is going to help the process. I absolutely believe that the CMS and the AOs (could be a band name!) have a duty and an obligation to step in when patients are being placed at risk, as the result of care, environment, abuse, whatever. But does that extend to the “potential” of a process gap that “could” result in something bad happening—even in the presence of evidence that the risk is being appropriately managed? There always have been, and always will be, imperfections in any organization—and interpretations of what those imperfections may or may not represent. Does this process make us better or more fearful?

Remembering it wasn’t fair outside…

First off, a mea culpa. It turns out that there was an educational presentation by CMS to (nominally) discuss the final Emergency Preparedness rule, with a focus on the training and testing requirements (you can find the slide deck here; the presentation will be uploaded sometime in the next couple of weeks or so) and I neglected to make sure that I had shared that information with you in time for you to check it out. My bad!

That said, I don’t know that it was the most compelling hour I’ve ever spent on the phone, but there were one or two (maybe as many as three) aspects of the conversation that were of interest, bordering on instructive. First off, when the final rule speaks to the topic of educating all staff on an annual basis, the pudding proof is going to be during survey when staff are asked specific questions about their roles in your plan (presumably based on what you come up with through the hazard vulnerability assessment—HVA—process). Do they know what to do if there is a condition that requires evacuation? Do they know how to summon additional resources during an emergency? Do they know what works and what doesn’t work as the result of various scenarios, etc.? This is certainly in line with what I’ve seen popping up (particularly during, but not limited to, CMS/state surveys)—there is an expectation (and I personally can’t argue against this as a general concept) that point-of-care/point-of-service staff are competent and knowledgeable when it comes to emergency management (and, not to mention, management of the care environment). As I’ve noted to I can’t tell you how many folks, the management of the physical environment, inclusive of emergency preparedness/management does not live on a committee and it is not “administered” during surveillance rounds or during fire drills. Folks who are taking care of the patients’ needs to know what their role is in the environment, particularly as a function of what to do when things are not perfect (I’ll stop for a moment and let you chew on that one for a moment).

Another expectation that was discussed (and this dovetails a wee bit with the last paragraph) is that your annual review of your emergency preparedness/management process/program must include a review of all (and I do mean all) of the associate/applicable policies and procedures that are needed for appropriate response. So far (at least on the TJC front—I’m less clear on what some of the other accrediting organizations (AO)—might be doing, though I suspect not too very far from this. More on the AO front in a moment), the survey review of documentation has focused on the emergency plan (or emergency operations plan or emergency response plan—if only a rose were a rose were a rose…), the exercise/drill documentation, HVA, and annual evaluation process. But now that the gauntlet has been expanded to include all those pesky policies and procedures. I will freely admit that I’m still trying to figure out how I would be inclined to proceed if I still had daily operational responsibility for emergency management stuff. My gut tells me that the key to this is going to be to start with the HVA and then try to reduce the number of policies and procedures to the smallest number of essential elements. I know there are going to be individual response plans—fire, hazmat, utility systems failures, etc.—is it worth “appendicizing” them to your basic response plan document (if you’ve already done so, I’d be interested to hear how it’s worked out, particularly when it comes to providing staff education)? I’m going to guess that pretty much everybody addresses the basic functions (communications, resources and assets, safety and security, utility systems, staff roles and responsibilities, patient care activities) with the structure of the E-plan, which I guess limits the amount of reviewable materials. There was a question from the listening audience about the difficulty in managing review of all these various and sundry documents and the potential for missing something in the review process (I am, of course, paraphrasing) and the response was not very forgiving—the whole of it has to be reviewed/revised/etc. So, I guess the job is to minimize/compact your response plans to their most essential (the final rule mentions the development of policies and procedures, but doesn’t stipulate what those might be) elements and guard them diligently.

The final takeaways for me are two in number. Number 1: Eventually, there will be Interpretive Guidelines published for the Emergency Preparedness final rule, but there is no firm pub date, so please don’t wait for that august publication before working towards the November implementation deadline. Number 2: While there is an expectation that the AOs will be reviewing their requirements and bringing them into accordance with the CMS requirements, there is no deadline for that to occur. Something makes me think that perhaps they are waiting on the Interpretive Guidelines to “make their move”—remembering it’s not going to be fair any time soon. I think the important dynamic to keep in mind when it comes to our friends at CMS (in all their permutations) is that they are paying hospitals to take care of their patients: the patients are CMS’ customers, not us. Which kind of goes a ways towards explaining why they are not so nice sometimes…

A bientot!

Point the finger (doesn’t matter which)

Or extend your hand?

First up, as a general rule of thumb (which could be one of the pointed fingers represented above, unless you don’t think a thumb is a finger), when CMS identifies an implementation date that is in the future, I think that we can safely work towards being in full compliance with whatever the Cs are implementing—on that implementation date. Apparently there’s been enough confusion (not really sure who may or may not have been confused, but sometimes it’s like that) for CMS to issue something of a clarification as to what is expected to be in place by November 15, 2017, which means education and exercises (and any other pesky items in your EM program that didn’t quite synch up with the final rule on emergency preparedness for healthcare organizations). Since this is very much brave new world territory when it comes to how (though perhaps the correct term would be “how painfully”) CMS is going to administer the final rule as a function of the survey process. I think it initially, unless we hear something very specific otherwise, means that we need to be prepared to meet the full intent of the language (making sure that you have trained/educated “all” staff; making sure that you participated in a community-wide exercise of some level of complexity) until these things start to sort out. My gut tells me that if they were going to engage in any more exculpatory/explanatory/clarifying communications, it would have been included in the above-noted transmission. And while I have little doubt that there will be some variability (states do not necessarily coordinate response) as to how this all pans out in the field, the education of “all” staff and participation in the communitywide exercise deal seem to be pretty inviolable. Certainly there have been instances in the past in which healthcare organizations have struggled to coordinate exercises with the local community(s), but my fear is that if you fall short on this, you will need to have a very compelling case of why you weren’t able to pull off a coordinated exercise. Community finances and fiscal years and local emergency response hegemony are all contributing factors, to be sure, but where you could “sell” that as a reason for not dancing with the locals to some of the accreditation organizations, I’m thinking that (as is usually the case) reasonableness and understanding might not be the highlights of any discussion with the feds and those that survey on their behalf. From what I’ve seen in the field, when it comes to CMS and the survey process, you are either in compliance or you are not in compliance and there is very little gray in between. Community drill done—compliant! Community drill not done—not compliant! Wouldn’t it be nice if life were always that simple?

At any rate, just to use this a reminder that the first anniversary of the 2012 Life Safety Code® is coming up—make sure you get all that annual testing and such out of the way—and don’t forget to make sure that all your fire alarm and suppression system documentation includes the correct version of the applicable NFPA code used for testing. I am dearly hoping to retire EC.02.03.05 from the most frequently cited standards ranks and while I fear the worst with this change. (To my mind, getting tagged for having the wrong NFPA year on the documentation would pretty much suck—please excuse my coarse language—but sucking is exactly what that type of finding would do.)

I understand all destructive urges

It seems so perfect…

A couple of somewhat disparate, but important, items for your consideration this week. I’m still somewhat fixated on how the survey process is going to manifest itself (regardless of which accrediting organization is doing the checking—including the feds). There are one or two clues to be had at the moment and I am most hopeful that the reason there is so little information coming out of the survey trenches is because there have been minimal change of a drastic nature/impact.

So, on to the discussion. As noted above, while the topics of conversation are indeed somewhat disparate, they do share a common theme—perhaps the most common theme of recent years (not to mention the most common theme of this space): the hegemony of the risk assessment. The topics: management of the behavioral health physical environment, and the risk assessment of systems and equipment indicated by NFPA 99-2012 Health Care Facilities Code. Fortunately, there are resources available to assist you in these endeavors—more on those in a moment.

For the management of the behavioral health physical environment, it does appear that our good friends in Chicago are making the most use of their bully pulpit in this regard. Health Facilities Management had an interesting article outlining the focus that would be well worth your time to check out if you have not already done so. I can tell you with absolute certainty that you need to have all your ducks in a row relative to this issue: risks identified, mitigation strategies implemented, staff educated, maybe some data analysis. As near as I can tell, not having had an “event” in this regard is probably not going to be enough to dissuade a surveyor if they think that they’ve found a risk you either missed or they feel is not being properly managed. If I have said this once, I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve said it (if I had a dollar for every time…): It is, for all intents and purposes, impossible to provide a completely risk-free environment, so there will always be risks to be managed. It is the nature of the places in which we care for patients that there is a never-ending supply of risky things for which we need to have appropriate management strategies. And I guess one risk we need to add to the mix are those pesky surveyors that somehow have gotten it in to their heads that there is such a thing as a risk-free environment. Appropriate care is a proactive/interactive undertaking. We don’t wait for things to happen; we manage things as we go, which is (really) all we can do.

As to the risk assessment of systems and equipment, as we near the first anniversary of the adoption of the 2012 edition of the Life Safety Code® (LSC) (inclusive of the 2012 edition of NFPA 99), the question is starting to be raised during CMS surveys relative to the risk assessment process (and work product) indicated in Chapter 4 Fundamentals (4.2 is the reference point) and speaks of “a defined risk assessment procedure.” I would imagine that there’s going to be some self-determination going on as to how often one would have to revisit the assessment, but it does appear that folks would be well-served by completing the initial go-through before we get too much closer to July. But good news if you’ve been dawdling or otherwise unsure of how best to proceed: our friends at the American Society for Healthcare Engineering have developed a tool to assist in managing the risk assessment process and you can find it here. I think you will find that the initial run-through (as is frequently the case with new stuff) may take a little bit of time to get through. (In your heart of hearts, you know how complex your building is, so think of this as an opportunity to help educate your organization as to how all those moving parts work together to result in a cohesive whole.)

 

These things have a habit of spreading very quickly in the survey world, so I would encourage you to keep at it if you’ve already started or get going if you haven’t. Even if you don’t have an immediately pending survey, a lot of this stuff is going to be traceable back to your previous survey and with that first anniversary of the LSC adoption rapidly approaching, better to have this done than not.