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If it’s September, it’s time for Executive Briefings!

I suspect that, over the next few weeks, as I learn of stuff coming out of the various and sundry Joint Commission Executive Briefings sessions, I’ll be sharing some thoughts, etc., in those regards here in the ol’ blog.

The first thing to “pop” at me was some information regarding Chapter 15 (Features of Fire Protection) in NFPA 99 Health Facilities Code (2012 edition) relating to the management of surgical fire risks. If you’ve not had a chance to check out section 13 of said chapter, I think it will be worth your while as there are a couple of things that in the past one might have described as a best practice. But, with the official adoption of NFPA 99 by CMS, this has become (more or less, but definitely more than before) the law of the land. From a practical standpoint, I can absolutely get behind the concepts contained in this section (I’m pretty comfortable with the position that any surgical fire is at least one more than we should have), but from a strict compliance standpoint, I know that it can be very challenging to get the folks up in surgery to “play ball” with the physical environment rules and regulations.

As one might expect, the whole thing breaks down into a few components: hazard assessment; establishment of fire prevention procedures; management of germicides and antiseptics; establishment of emergency procedures; orientation and training. I think the piece of this that might benefit from some focused attention relates to the management of germicides and antiseptics, particularly as a function of the required “timeout” for the germicide/antiseptic application process. And yes my friends, I did say “required”; Section 15.13.3.6 indicates (quite specifically) that a preoperative “timeout” period shall be conducted prior to the initiation of any surgical procedure using flammable liquid germicides or antiseptics to verify that:

  • Application site of flammable germicide or antiseptic is dry prior to draping and use of electrosurgery, cautery, or a laser
  • Pooling of solution has not occurred or has been corrected
  • Any solution-soaked materials have been removed from the operating room (OR) prior to draping and use of electrosurgery, cautery, or a laser

Now, I will freely and openly admit that I’ve not done a deep dive into the later chapters of NFPA 99 (though that’s on my to-do list), so I hadn’t bumped into this, but I can definitely see this being a potential vulnerability, particularly in light of the recent FDA scrutiny (and it goes to Linda B’s question in follow-up to a recent blog posting—I probably should have turtled to this at that point—mea maxima culpa). At any rate, nothing in this section of NFPA 99 is arguable unless you don’t have it in place and a surveyor “goes there,” so perhaps you should be sure that your OR folks are already “there” sooner rather than later.

Two closing items:

  • The good folks at the Facilities Guidelines Institute have provided a state-by-state resource identifying which states have adopted the FGI guidelines (completely, partially, not really). You can find that information here.
  • Also,  Triumvirate Environmental is presenting a couple of webinars over the next little while that might be of interest. The one this week (sorry for the short notice) deals with the recently established by EPA’s Hazardous Waste e-Manifest Program and then the week after next, there’s a program on Best Practices to Optimize Your Waste Documentation Program. While I can’t call these crazy risky survey vulnerabilities, EC.02.02.01 is still percolating around the top of the most frequently cited list, so it never hurts to obtain greater familiarity with this stuff.

Enjoy your week safely!

When the tough get going: Emergency Management and other considerations

First off (and apologies for the short lead time on this), but next week (February 13), CDC is hosting a webinar on the importance of assessing for environmental exposures during emergencies (and in general). While this is likely to be some useful information as a going concern, you can also earn CEUs for tuning in. A summary of the program as well as registration information, etc., can be found here. Overall, I think hospitals had a pretty good track record of emergency response in 2017, but somehow these things never seem to get easier over time…

Another issue that I see starting to gain a little traction in the survey world is dealing with concerns relating to medical gas and vacuum systems; for the most part (I’m sure there are some exceptions, but I can’t say that I’ve run into them), folks in hospitals tend to rely on contracted vendors to do the formal inspection, testing, and maintenance of medical gas and vacuum systems, which tends to keep an in-depth knowledge of the dirty details at (more or less) arm’s length. A couple of weeks ago, I received some information from Jason Di Marco of Compliant Healthcare Technologies (many thanks to Jason!) that I thought would be worth sharing with you folks. Of primary interest is a downloadable guide to medical gas systems (available here in exchange for your email address) that really gives a good overview of the nuts and bolts (as it were) of your med gas system. Jason also publishes a blog on the critical aspects of medical gas and vacuum system inspection, testing, maintenance, compliance, etc., where I found a fair amount of useful information. Again, I can see the regulatory compliance laser focus starting to turn in the direction of all the systems covered under NFPA 99 and I can also see some of those prickly surveyor types trying to pick at the knowledge base of the folks managing these processes. So, in the interest of never having too much information, I would suggest getting a little more intimate with your medical gas and vacuum systems.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I wanna know: Have you ever seen the rain?

In our intermittently continuing series on the (final!) adoption of the 2012 Life Safety Code®, we turn to the one area about which I have still the most concerns—the magic land of NFPA 99. My primary concern is that while NFPA 99 contains lots and lots of references to risk assessments and the processes therein, I’m still not entirely convinced that the CMS oversight of the regulatory compliance process is going to embrace risk assessments to the extent that would allow us to plot our own compliance courses. I guess I will have to warily keep my fingers crossed and keep an eye on what actually occurs during CMS surveys of the physical environment. So, on to this week’s discussion…

When considering the various and sundry requirements relating to the installation and ongoing inspection, testing and maintenance of electrical system components, one of the key elements is the management of risk associated with electrical shock in wet procedure locations. NFPA 99 defines a wet procedure location as “(t)he area in a patient care room where a procedure is performed that is normally subject to wet conditions while patients are present, including standing fluids on the floor or drenching of the work area, either of which condition is intimate to the patient or staff.”

Typically, based on that description, the number of areas that would “rule in” for consideration as wet procedure locations is pretty limited (and depending on the nature, etc., of the procedures being performed maybe even less limited than that). But in the modern age, the starting point for this discussion (and this is specifically provided for under section 6.3.2.2.8.4 of the 2012 edition of NFPA 99) is that operating rooms are to be considered wet procedure locations—unless a risk assessment conducted by the healthcare governing body (yow!) determines otherwise (all my yammering over the years about risk assessments is finally paying off—woo hoo!). By the way, there is a specific definition of “governing body”: the person or persons who have overall legal responsibility for the operations of a healthcare facility. This means you’re going to have to get your boss (and your boss’ boss and maybe your boss’ boss’ boss) to play in the sandbox on this particular bit of assessmentry.

Fortunately, our good friends at ASHE have developed a lovely risk assessment tool (this is a beta version) to assist in this regard and they will share the tool with you in exchange for just a few morsels of information (and, I guess, a pledge to provide them with some useful feedback as you try out the tool—they do ask nicely, so I hope you would honor their request if you check this out—and I really think you should). Since I’m pretty certain that we can attribute a fair amount of expertise to any work product emanating from ASHE (even free stuff!), I think we can reasonably work with this tool in the knowledge that we would be able to present it to a surveyor and be able to discuss how we made the necessary determinations relative to wet procedure locations. And speaking of surveys and surveyors, I also don’t think it would be unreasonable to think that this might very well be an imminent topic of conversation once November 5 rolls around and we begin our new compliance journey in earnest. Remember, there is what I will call an institutional tendency to focus on what has changed in the regulations as opposed to what remains the same. And I think that NFPA 99 is going to provide a lot of fodder for the survey process over the next little while. I mean think about it, we’re still getting “dinged” for requirements that are almost two decades old—I think it will be a little while before we get our arms (and staff) around the ins and outs of the new stuff. Batten down the hatches: Looks like some rough weather heading our way!

At any rate, here’s the link to the wet procedure location assessment tool.

Hope everyone has a safe and festively spooky (or spookily festive) All Hallows Eve!

A clear case of compliance interruptus

Greetings one and all from high above the 2012 Life Safety Code® (LSC) compliance track with a quick update on CMS plans for administering surveys, etc., in the wake of official adoption of the 2012 LSC. I’m climbing out on a limb just a little bit as the latest missive in this regard from The Joint Commission indicates that it will begin surveying to the requirements of the 2012 LSC on July 5 (Happy freakin’ Independence Day), but it appears that CMS has other ideas. In a member alert disseminated late last week, our friends at the American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE) are reporting that a memorandum was issued by CMS to the various and sundry accreditation agencies (TJC, DNV, HFAP, M-O-U-S-E) indicating that hospitals have until November 7, 2016 before this new shiny hammer is wielded during accreditation surveys. Now, I think it was likely that there would be some sort of transition period for this process (the accreditors would have to update their standards manuals, etc., and I don’t think that happens overnight, but maybe there are manual elves that come in under cover of darkness), so I guess that has come to pass and the end date for that transition is November 7 (I guess they didn’t want to wait until the following month’s day of infamy).

As I’ve noted in this space recently, a lot of the basic tenets of compliance are going to pretty much stay the course. We will continue to manage rated barriers (walls, decks, doors); we will continue to manage egress (perhaps a little more simply, but clutter will still be clutter) and so on. There may be some efficiencies to be gained in the practical application of the various fire alarm and fire suppression system inspection, testing, and maintenance processes (I’ll have to do some edumacation on those), but I really think that the devil in all these details is going to come from how the requirements of NFPA 99 Standard for Health Care Facilities are administered and/or otherwise enforced. NFPA 99 has always kind of hovered in the background, but I think is going to be very much a coming out party. At any rate, ASHE has made available a fair number of resources (some readily accessible, some for members) and I would encourage you to do a little digging if you have not already done so. I still think the physical environment is going to figure quite strongly in the survey process, but maybe this is where we get to share the most frequently cited standards lists with the clinical folks.

On a closing, and most somber note, in the wake of events in Orlando this weekend (thoughts and prayers to all the victims, their families, the community at large, and pretty much everybody else), I can’t help but think that there’s got to be a better way. I know the circumstances that can lead up to events like these are extraordinarily polarizing—and I’ve noted that the polarization didn’t waste any time manifesting itself in the halls of social media. I wish that I had some sage bit of advice or encouragement, but nothing is coming right now beyond this old cliché (doesn’t make it any less useful or true)—cherish your loved ones…right now! We will all be better for it.

News to me

Recently, a client sent me a question regarding assessing his surgical procedure rooms as wet locations. This was primarily as a function of the changes to NFPA 99, which brings the concept of wet locations and surgery back into the mix (the 2012 edition of NFPA 99 defines wet procedure locations as the “area in a patient care room where a procedure is performed that is normally subject to wet conditions while a patient is present, including standing fluids on the floor or drenching of the work area, either of which condition is intimate to the patient or staff,” NFPA 99 – 2012: 3.3.184). Previously, operating rooms were not considered wet locations as a rule, but now it appears that the pendulum has swung in the other direction.

To that end, the American Society of Healthcare Engineering (ASHE) issued an advocacy statement last year recommending that organizations form a risk assessment group to develop a process for evaluating surgical procedure rooms to determine which of these areas, if any, might legitimately be considered wet locations. Now based on the definition from NFPA 99, you could probably rule out a lot of procedure areas (rooms designated for eye surgery, neurosurgery, ENT surgery, etc.), but in other areas it may require some observations of the procedures being performed to determine the extent of standing fluids, etc. Once you’ve determined that you have wet locations, then you would need to move to provide appropriate protection (GFCI protection, isolated power, etc.). And there are other considerations as well, based on the activities in the space, the “state” of the equipment used in the space, etc. There can be any number of contributing factors that could increase the risk to staff and patients in wet locations; Appendix B of the 2005 edition of NFPA 99 speaks of such things as line-powered equipment that is within reach; a damaged line cord, attachment plugs, or exposed metal presenting a risk of direct exposure to a conductor; damaged equipment with “live” metal, exposed metal that has become ungrounded, a person making contact with a live metal surface, etc.

As with so many things, the key process is the almighty risk assessment, so if you’ve not yet wrestled with this bear, you might find it useful to start the process (in full disclosure, the ASHE advocacy statement came out last year—and if you don’t think certain three-letter regulatory agencies are not familiar with this bit of news, I would encourage you to think otherwise).  Sometimes codes change for good reasons, sometimes maybe not so much, but we have an obligation to provide the safest possible environments for patients and staff and this looks like something that can be at least determined fairly simply (fixing this if you have issues is likely to be much less simple).