Greeley Response to Recent CMS Statements about Temporary Privileges

Recent public statements by CMS representatives have raised questions about the mechanism a hospital should use to authorize /approve temporary privileges. Specifically, that the CMS CoPs do not allow the CEO to sign off on temporary privileges and that only the governing body can grant privileges (including temporary privileges).  These statements have caused a great deal of discussion in the field.  We are monitoring the discussion and provide the following analysis:

The CMS Conditions of Participation (“CoPs”) require that a hospital’s Governing Body approve each practitioner’s Medical Staff privileges. Neither the CoPs nor the corresponding CMS interpretive guidelines specify the method that must be used for such Governing Body approval. Most Governing Bodies appoint a Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) to act on its behalf to award privileges on a temporary basis (e.g., until the next Board or Board Committee meeting for new applicants or when necessary to meet urgent patient care needs) … just as the Board empowers the CEO to enter into contracts and perform other governance functions on the Board’s behalf.

Greeley is working with CMS, the Joint Commission, Healthcare Facilities Accreditation Program, the American Health Lawyers Association, and others to resolve this situation. We recognize that hospital Boards must have a reliable and safe mechanism to award privileges in the face of urgent patient care needs: whether it be to treat patients during a community wide disaster, to enable a sub-specialist to perform a rare or new procedure on a hospital’s patient, or to assure that there are sufficient physicians to examine and treat patients presenting to the emergency department. Awarding temporary privileges has been a mechanism used for decades to safely and reliably meet this need. We also recognize the Board’s responsibility to oversee the Medical Staff credentialing and privileging process and to assure that each practitioner to whom it awards privileges is fully qualified (by credentials and proof of current competence).

We will continue our discussions and keep our consultants and clients advised in the days and weeks ahead.

Sally Pelletier, Chief Credentialing Officer

 

Mock Surveys: Helpful, or Not So Much…?

There are two types of recommendations that can come out of a mock survey: good recommendations and unhelpful recommendations.

If you’ve had a mock survey before, it may have been delivered with recommendations like:

  • “Staff should be educated…,”
  • “Be sure to remind the physicians…,” or
  • “Don’t do this anymore!”

Two of these are “managed loose” accountability black holes. The other is a hard stop with no alternatives offered, which is a very hard direction to follow. Neither is going to solve the problem, and both will likely compound issues further. Unhelpful.

A good recommendation from a mock survey should be helpful. It should do one or more of the following:

  • Make an actual recommendation like, “The policy should be reworded to say…”
  • Reward critical thinking by reinforcing a care facilitation approach and concurrent monitoring suggestions.
  • Provide a practical tool like a form or checklist to assist with quality control.
  • Define a path for next steps when more analysis is needed to determine if a cited issue is isolated or related to a significant process flaw.

When you receive a report from a mock survey, and there are findings outlined, you should feel like a root cause is known, or that you have a path to find it. If recommendations you receive are falling into the “unhelpful” category, you are left to either find the root cause yourself, or make changes without a real understanding of what the root cause is.

A mock survey should leave you with:

  • A clear understanding both requirements and findings,
  • An understanding of root causes of noncompliance (or likely culprits and how to single them out and address them), and
  • Practical solutions for policy/process/care delivery to get you to compliance without undo complexity.

Your membership benefits can help.  Please reach out to mcampbell@greeley.com to learn more.

Areas of Focus: Enhanced Joint Commission Survey Process

If your hospital is accredited by The Joint Commission (TJC), your CEO recently received a letter. That letter alerts the CEO that Joint Commission surveyors have been given additional training in four subjects to focus on when they arrive at your door for a survey. These subjects are:high-level disinfection and sterilization;

  • sterile compounding of medications;
  • identification and protection of potentially suicidal patients; and
  • hemodialysis.

Each of these is the source of many “Immediate Threat to Life” findings by TJC. Greeley has also found them to be the subject of many adverse actions by CMS. So, it behooves all hospitals to pay special attention to these areas (and not just immediately before your next survey window opens.)

TJC encourages hospital leadership to put these items on its agenda and to deploy resources with expertise in these areas to review and monitor performance. We agree. We also have some thoughts about how your hospital might go about it.

What To Look For In General

Greeley has learned from our experience helping hospitals work through hundreds of TJC and CMS adverse actions over the years, there are a few general principles that will help you get out and stay out of trouble. Paramount among these approaches (which are components of Greeley’s 14-point Framework for Sustained Compliance) are simple expectations, care facilitation, and effective oversight.

Simple Expectations

Don’t overbuild your policies and procedures. No one is able to understand or follow long and complex documents and you will be unable to monitor them. We understand, however, that these simple expectations are very, very difficult to craft. But that difficult work is necessary if you hope to avoid safety and accreditation vulnerabilities.

Care Facilitation

It is not possible to monitor performance in any of these areas through a simple review of logs or repeated training. If those approaches worked, these subjects would not be singled out for “enhanced survey” review.

Instead, one must understand the problematic steps in each of these processes (outlined in related blog posts) and combine monitoring and reinforcement in one step. We think of it as reinforcement with an open hand vs. a closed fist. Data are collected through the reinforcement process. It takes focus. It takes resources. But it does not take too much time: using this approach makes a real difference… quickly.

Effective Oversight

It’s difficult for large, multidisciplinary committees to be effective in closing the loop. So, although these “performance improvement committees” need to be involved, oversight must also be provided by the leadership team. In Greeley’s model, we recommend a final quality and safety oversight committee.

Convening the groups (or adding to the agenda of existing leadership team meetings) is the first step. Additional steps (effective presentations, realistic recommendations, accountability tracking, etc.) will increase the effectiveness of this group as it seeks to mitigate patient safety risks and regulatory/accreditation vulnerabilities. Greeley does a lot of work with clients on effective meeting management, or #enddeathbymeeting, as they call it in the Twitter-sphere.

Stay Tuned

You will see our summaries of common risk points in separate but related blog posts. Remember that none of these areas are new; they’ve been problematic for years. But now is the time to do something to address each of these once and for all. A good start is by following TJC’s recommendation: get these issues on leadership’s agenda (and stay tuned to Greeley for additional tips and advice.)

Marijuana in the Hospital Environment

As more states legalize marijuana, more physicians have begun recommending cannabis to their patients for the management of pain, nausea, anxiety, and loss of appetite. Recent literature also suggests that cannabis may be effective in treating other conditions. For example, the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved a drug whose active ingredient is an extract from the marijuana plant, cannabidiol (CBD), for the treatment of a rare form of epilepsy. Some physicians would like to prescribe marijuana or marijuana extracts for hospital patients and have asked that these substances be added to the hospital formulary, but strictly speaking it that would require the breaking (or bending) of federal regulations.

Here Greeley paints a picture of the current state and federal situation and suggests a few approaches hospitals might consider if they choose to support the use of marijuana in the hospital environment.

State of the States

  • It remains illegal to possess or provide marijuana in some states. For example, it is still a felony to possess cannabis in Alabama.
  • Currently, 31 states allow the use of marijuana and marijuana extracts for medical purposes. In these instances, marijuana extracts may be obtained from cannabis dispensaries, not pharmacies, with the authorization, not prescription, of a state-approved prescriber — typically a physician with a state-issued medical marijuana card.
  • Nine states now allow recreational marijuana use.

The Federal View

The marijuana plant is classified as a Schedule I substance along with heroin, LSD, ecstasy, and peyote. Marijuana extracts too!

The Federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) maintains five lists, or “schedules,” of the substances it controls. Schedule V lists the most benign medications and Schedule I lists those that are all but prohibited. The marijuana plant (drug code 7360) is classified as a Schedule I substance along with heroin, LSD, ecstasy, and peyote. Marijuana extracts (drug code 7350), including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabinol (CBN), and cannabidiol (CBD), are also listed as Schedule I substances.

  • The DEA requires an individual or organization to possess a valid certificate to receive, store, dispense, provide or prescribe any “scheduled” medications in situations where interstate commerce is involved and by Medicare providers, including practitioners and hospitals.
  • With rare exceptions, the DEA does not issue Schedule I certificates to physicians or hospitals. Such certificates are only issued for special situations, such as use in an approved clinical trial with a very narrow use case.

    With rare exceptions, the DEA does not issue Schedule I certificates to physicians or hospitals.

Marinol®

Physicians and hospitals have the option of prescribing, dispensing, and administering THC in the form Marinol (dronabinol). This drug is listed on the DEA’s Schedule III and has been approved by the FDA for many years for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and anorexia associated with weight loss in patients with AIDS.

Pressure from CBD advocates

There is growing pressure on the DEA to remove the marijuana extract CBD from Schedule I. CBD is reported to have most of the medical benefits of marijuana without the side effect of intoxication. CBD is commonly used by individuals undergoing chemotherapy for appetite stimulation, anxiety relief, and other benefits. Advocates argue that there is little risk of abuse. The DEA, however, has taken a strict interpretation of the definition of “marijuana” as used in the federal drug classification statute: since CBD can be extracted from the potent parts of the marijuana plant (flowers, etc.), the DEA continues to list it in Schedule I.

Stay tuned: On June 21, 2018 the FDA approved Epidiolex® (active ingredient CBD) to treat a rare form of epilepsy. This may trigger the removal of CBD from Schedule I. We’ll have to see. Keep in mind that dronabinol (Marinol — above) is a Schedule III medication even though its active ingredient, THC, remains on Schedule I.

Why can I buy it down the street, but I can’t use it in the hospital?

There are domains where the state rules apply, and domains where the federal rules apply, which are best explained by constitutional scholars. Put simply, the federal rules apply when 1) interstate commerce is involved, or 2) the federal government is paying.

Federal rules apply when 1) interstate commerce is involved, or 2) the federal government is paying.

So, in some states an individual may buy marijuana, THC, CBN, or CBD at a local retailer, but (for now) the hospital can’t receive, store, dispense, order, or administer any of these substances while dealing with interstate suppliers and/or while accepting federal payments (from Medicare, Medicaid, among others.)

Confused? You are not alone.

Options

Hospitals continue to struggle with the disconnect between state and federal requirements and there is no consensus approach.  We, therefore, offer the following “thought stimulators” for hospitals attempting to navigate these murky waters.

Option 1: Just say no

Even though it may be legal for the patient to possess and use marijuana in your state, the hospital may choose not to allow possession on hospital property. Hospitals adopting this approach treat any recognizable marijuana as it would any other “contraband” like firearms: legal, but not allowed on hospital property. Policies typically ask the family to take disallowed items home. Otherwise, illegal items are usually turned over to authorities by security according to local protocol. It is important that pharmacy and pharmacy personnel not be involved in the holding of marijuana in any form not approved by the FDA. It is incompatible with their overall responsibility for compliance with DEA and FDA requirements.

This “just say no” approach would not necessarily apply to discharge instructions, which are not orders. Discharge instructions are the physician’s recommendations for post-hospital care. Although we urge you to involve your legal counsel and risk manager in the discussion, we see no regulatory vulnerability should the hospital include any otherwise legal product or activity in the discharge instruction process.

Also, the patient’s medication history recorded upon admission should include herbal preparations, including marijuana or its extracts.

Option 2: Allow recreational use

Hospitals may simply ignore the legal use of marijuana by an individual patient as long as it is not in conflict with his or her treatment plan or other hospital policies. There are a number of speed bumps down this road, so consider the following:

  • Pills, liquids, or oils containing marijuana extracts are similar to medications, except that they are not FDA approved. They cannot be “administered” by hospital staff and most hospitals do not allow the self-administration by inpatients of non-FDA-approved (e.g. herbal) preparations. If they are legal in the state, the family should be asked to take these products home when possible. If that’s not an option, security (or another department other than pharmacy) should hold the material until discharge following standard procedures.
  • Smoking marijuana, like smoking tobacco, is typically prohibited in hospital buildings and, in most cases, anywhere on hospital property. The Joint Commission allows patient-specific exemptions, but most hospital policies do not.
  • “Vaping” is lumped in with smoking by the Joint Commission, but hospitals may make patient-focused exemptions for vaping if they desire.
  • Brownies or other edibles brought in from the outside would be handled according to hospital policy.
    • Outpatients can typically eat whatever they want (unless they are NPO.)
    • Inpatients on a regular diet may or may not be allowed consume food from home, depending on hospital policy.
    • Food from the outside is usually prohibited for patients on a therapeutic diet.

Again, Option 2 is not for the faint of heart and should be explored only with very careful consideration by individuals with a comprehensive and in-depth knowledge of applicable external requirements (state marijuana laws, accreditation rules, CMS regulations, etc.)

Option 3: Allow use upon a physician’s order (not an option)

We cannot see any way for a hospital to allow a prescriber to order the administration of marijuana or marijuana extracts that are not approved by the FDA.

We would also advise against the hospital allowing physicians to issue orders authorizing the recreational use of marijuana during the patient’s stay … it cuts too close to the line of prescribing. As it says along the borders of ancient world maps, “There be dragons here.”

Conclusion (for now)

This is a rapidly-changing subject. Momentum is currently on the “legalize” side of the tug of war. But we see few options (other than plausible deniability) for hospitals wishing to acknowledge the use of an otherwise legal substance in the hospital setting.

The Greeley Company would like to thank D Ross Consulting and Ken Rohde for their consultation in the preparation of this post.

References:

 

Healthcare Water Works – CMS Clarifies Water Management Program Expectations

In June of 2017, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a guidance document establishing the general expectation that hospitals (acute care and critical access) and long-term care facilities would adopt programs for managing the potential impact of waterborne pathogens in their water systems. This guidance was issued primarily in response to an increase in reported cases of legionellosis in the use over the period 2000-2014. The indication is that there have been enough cases of legionellosis traced to healthcare facilities to warrant some focused attention on the management of healthcare water systems.

The key elements of the guidance document (https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Provider-Enrollment-and-Certification/SurveyCertificationGenInfo/Policy-and-Memos-to-States-and-Regions-Items/Survey-And-Cert-Letter-17-30-.html ) revolve around the specific directions to healthcare organizations as well as to surveying organizations:

Expectations for Healthcare Facilities

CMS expects Medicare and Medicare/Medicaid certified healthcare facilities to have water management policies and procedures to reduce the risk of growth and spread of Legionella and other opportunistic pathogens in building water systems.

Facilities must have water management plans and documentation that, at a minimum, ensure each facility:

  • Conducts a facility risk assessment to identify where Legionella and other opportunistic waterborne pathogens (e.g. Pseudomonas, Acinetobacter, Burkholderia, Stenotrophomonas, nontuberculous mycobacteria, and fungi) could grow and spread in the facility water system.
  • Develops and implements a water management program that considers the ASHRAE industry standard and the CDC toolkit.
  • Specifies testing protocols and acceptable ranges for control measures, and document the results of testing and corrective actions taken when control limits are not maintained.
  • Maintains compliance with other applicable Federal, State and local requirements.

Note: CMS does not require water cultures for Legionella or other opportunistic water borne pathogens. Testing protocols are at the discretion of the provider.

Healthcare facilities are expected to comply with CMS requirements and conditions of participation to protect the health and safety of its patients. Those facilities unable to demonstrate measures to minimize the risk of LD are at risk of citation for non-compliance.

Expectations for Surveyors and Accrediting Organizations

LTC surveyors will expect that a water management plan (which includes a facility risk assessment and testing protocols) is available for review but will not cite the facility based on the specific risk assessment or testing protocols in use. Further LTC surveyor guidance and process will be communicated in an upcoming survey process computer software update. Until that occurs, please use this paragraph as guiding instructions.

From the “tenor” of this particular missive, it seems likely that there have been some LTC surveyors citing folks for some of the practical/operational decisions they’ve made relative to decisions to (or not to) test for pathogens, what out-of-range values have been established, or indeed, the contents of the risk assessment itself.

All that said, there are vendors that are assisting facilities in developing water management programs, but in reviewing the guidance from CMS and the particulars of the CDC recommendations, it is certainly feasible to consider setting up programs utilizing internal resources. As Greeley members, we are happy to coordinate the use of Advisor time to obtain feedback on this topic from a Greeley consultant.

Updated Expectations for Managing Physical Environment Risks and the Potential For Suicide

As we (and Joint Commission) continue to evolve in our approaches to managing the physical environment as it relates to the management of behavioral health patients, I encourage you to check out the July 2018 issue of Joint Commission’s Perspectives (if you are not accredited by TJC and want to check out how at least one accrediting body is working through these issues, you can find the information as FAQ’s under the Hospital and Hospital Clinics section: https://www.jointcommission.org/standards_information/jcfaq.aspx ). There is a fair amount of content and splits up into three general categories: inpatient pysch units, emergency departments, and miscellaneous (I’m going to guess that the FAQ’s relative to managing at risk patients in acute care settings is going to merit their own FAQ edition, so I guess we’ll have to stay tuned).

I don’t know that I would term anything to be particularly surprising – lots of emphasis on having a robust risk assessment process that comprises an integrated approach to the management of any at-risk patient population. There is some discussion of environmental elements such as nursing stations on psych units, the use of suspended ceilings in corridors and common areas, height requirements relative to ligature risks, the use of specific equipment, etc. For the most part, organizations are going to have to self-determine how those risks are to be best managed.

They do make some efforts to describe/define what they would consider high-risk patients, going so far as to indicate that only patients with “serious” suicidal ideation (those with a plan and intent) need to be placed under “demonstrably reliable monitoring” (aka 1:1 monitoring), with the further caveat that the monitoring be linked to immediate intervention, which means something in terms of competency, education, experience, etc. There is a clear indication that there is an expectation relative to the preparation of those folks who will do the monitoring, which will likely drive survey scrutiny of processes relating to staff education, competency assessments, etc. It is also noted that if these high-risk patients move through the organization for care and/or treatment, they are to remain in a ligature-resistant environment.

Another interesting item is the indication that if you have designated a room in your ED as a “safe room”, then the expectation (at least for TJC) is that that room (or rooms if there are more than one) would be ligature-resistant. Makes sense from a practical standpoint, but I think it does represent something of a caution for those of you looking at officially designating safe rooms in your EDs (and perhaps extending to the inpatient side of things – probably in the next installment).

Another item of interest (and this probably doesn’t apply to all) relates to freestanding ED’s – the general recommendations (you can check out the November 2017 issue of Perspectives for the particulars if you’ve not yet done so) for ED’s would apply. I understand that this is rather a big deal in general and is very close to endlessly complex in the practical application of the management of risks. For better or worse, “safe” is in the eye of the beholder, so it makes sense to continue to leverage available resources, including the Greeley Membership Program, to ensure survey success in this area.

Steven A. MacArthur | Senior Consultant

High Level Disinfection: Challenges with Infection Prevention and Control Standards

By now everyone should be well aware that two categories of standards rise to the top in the volume of regulatory findings. These are Environment of Care and Infection Prevention and Control.  One standard in particular receives a lot of citations varying widely in range: Joint Commission Infection Prevention and Control standard IC.02.02.01.  However, while a variety of findings roll up under this standard, a common theme is evident:  high-level disinfection and/or sterilization. This is also a high vulnerability focus area from a CMS compliance issue.

Let’s consider for a moment the challenges associated with high-level disinfection. The process is:

  • Problem prone – numerous steps with varying requirements for each
  • High risk – if not performed correctly, patient harm can occur
  • Potentially widespread throughout an organization
  • Often is not well-standardized across the organization (even in locations using the same products on similar equipment)

One of the first steps to ensuring high-level disinfection is performed in a safe and compliant manner is to determine the current state of the processes within the organization. On the surface this sounds simple, but there are numerous types of equipment undergoing high-level disinfection in any facility as well as a variety of high-level disinfectants.  Take a thorough and accurate inventory of all locations and staff performing high-level disinfection, the types of equipment undergoing the process and all of the disinfectant products in use.  Be sure to include a compilation of all manufacturer guidelines for both the equipment being disinfected, equipment utilized in the disinfecting process as well as the disinfectant itself.

As with all processes the simpler the process is to perform, the better compliance will be; so consider adopting a policy that covers high-level disinfection globally with posting of manufacturer guidelines for the equipment and disinfectant specific to each location that address the individual nuances of the process accordingly.

It is also important to have a sound process for assurance of staff competence and ongoing job-specific education and training, particularly when equipment or disinfectant is changed. Lastly, will be the oversight provided for the process(es) and incorporation of this into the overall Quality program.

Nancy White, Greeley Consultant

FDA Bans Powdered Gloves: Avoiding a Leadership Citation

You may have heard in passing that the FDA banned the use of powdered gloves in January 2017 due to patient and employee safety. You may have moved on thinking the use of these antiquated gloves was not an issue for you. Think you are safe? Who uses or orders powdered gloves anymore?  Think again.

Powdered gloves still exist. One key will be to check existing stock, especially as your organization acquires older physician offices, surgical centers, or therapy practices. (Think high shelves in older physician offices where staff would say “I don’t know what that is up there.”) Previously privately-owned organizations may have continued to order powdered gloves or may have suffered from “we can’t throw away perfectly good stuff” syndrome.  Or, as health care professionals, we are famous for having an area of expired or no longer used items on the premises for Dr. Smith’s next mission trip.  (An honorable mention that results in a win in the ‘no good deed goes unpunished’ category.)  Finally, the other key is to remember that just because the FDA has banned the gloves for use does not mean that general stores or Materials Management or Supply Chain Management does not have access to order the powdered gloves.

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO? Contact your Environment of Care Committee and individuals with responsibility for new acquisitions to ensure they search for the banned gloves. Contact Materials Management/Supply Chain Management to ensure they do not stock powdered gloves but have flagged this item as not acceptable for ordering. These actions will save you a painful Leadership citation from The Joint Commission!

Beth VanOrsdale, Greeley Consultant

Yes, you can still clarify Joint Commission findings – Part 2

How to clarify

Don’t get hung up on the clarification format. Sometimes explanations don’t fit well into the Joint Commission’s “who, when, what, how, and why” outline and your explanation won’t be clear.

Future posts will walk you through specific examples of successful clarifications, but overall you will need to demonstrate:

  • that the hospital had a process that complied with the actual requirement in place at the time of survey;
  • that the process was approved by the right folks at the hospital;
  • that the process was implemented using an effective implementation process (education, reinforcement, etc.);
  • that the process had been in place for a significant amount of time prior to survey (ideally for at least the previous year); and
  • why you believe this process complied with the requirement at the time of survey.

Do your homework

Before you decide whether to clarify what seems to be a misinterpretation of the requirement, check the facts.

  • Read the element of performance carefully. What does it really require.
  • Read the relevant portions of the CMS interpretive guidelines.
  • Read recommendations from nationally recognized standard-setting bodies such as CDC, AORN, AAPIC or other relevant entity.
  • Read recent literature.

If this homework validates that the finding is inaccurate, then please put this information into the clarification.

If this homework uncovers a disparity between your process and CMS requirements or recognized guidelines, you will want to change your process instead of trying to clarify the RFI.

What if you miss the 10-day clarification window?

The hospital has ten business days after the survey report is posted to submit a clarification. But, what if you realize that the finding was inaccurate after the ten-day window has closed? Then, reflect the existing, compliant process in your evidence of standards compliance.

After doing your homework, explain what you will do going forward to comply with the requirement. The fact that what you will do going forward is the same as the process in place at the time of survey is irrelevant. Your proposed evidence is either sufficient (shows compliance with the requirement), or it is not.

Important: balance safety, experience and efficiency

Whether clarifying a survey finding, crafting evidence of standards compliance, or fixing a problem you found yourself, it is extremely important that the process at the heart of this clarification or fix is:

  • safe (and compliant)
  • promotes a positive experience for patients, staff members and providers, and
  • is efficient.

If the fix (or the existing process) does not meet all three of these criteria, then you are not done; a better process design is indicated. (More about the three features of a reliable process in later blog posts.)

In future posts …

We will give examples of how to clarify specific common findings. Findings like medication security, care planning, abuse and neglect screening and many more.

So stay tuned.

Bud Pate, VP Content Development, Consulting

Yes, you can still clarify Joint Commission findings.

Rumor has it that the Joint Commission removed the option to clarify survey findings. This rumor is not true. It is more important than ever to make sure that corrective actions are based on accurate findings lest we get off track by trying to fix things that are not broken.

What went away at the first of 2017:

There are no more rate-based or “Type C” elements of performance in the Joint Commission’s Hospital standards manual. Therefore, there is no longer the opportunity to “audit” a finding away by measuring performance at the time of the survey to prove that the defect observed was present less than 10% of the time. So, type C rate-based clarifications are gone, along with measures of success that were required to demonstrate and 90% or higher rate of compliance over a four-month period. (Hooray!)

There is also no opportunity to clarify a RFI based on a document that was found by hospital personnel after the survey was complete. It therefore behooves the hospital to have required documents at the ready and to dedicate resources during the survey for last-minute scavenger hunts. This, too, makes sense.

However, if a finding is just wrong, the hospital can and should clarify. You damage yourself, and, you damage the institution, by trying to fix something that is not broken.

We’ve helped clients with hundreds of survey reports of all kinds in the last decade, and we know that most survey reports have some level of inaccuracy … this is not a criticism of the survey process, it’s just a recognition of the human condition: “to err is human …”

When to clarify

  • Clarify when the observation documented in the survey report is not accurate.
  • Clarify when the observation is accurate, but the hospital nevertheless complies with the standard.

Even if there are 20 observations under one element of performance and only 1 of them is wrong, clarify. Say thank you for the 19 observations that were accurate, but get the 20th inaccurate observation removed. Why? Well, the RFI may not go away, but your post survey improvement efforts will focus on real issues.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the Joint Commission is offended by clarifications.

Some of us are loathe to object to a survey finding. Don’t be. The Joint Commission doesn’t mind. Be courteous and respectful for sure, but don’t hesitate to let the Joint Commission know when you think a survey finding is wrong. There are two possible outcomes as a result of submitting a clarification:

  1. You will get the errant finding removed from the report (or, if you miss the formal clarification window, the citation will be “corrected” by merely demonstrating the compliance of existing systems), or
  2. You will be educated about why what you thought was an erroneous finding was actually correct.

Either way, the discussion is worth having. The next post will focus on how to clarify Joint Commission findings.

Bud Pate, VP Content Development, Consulting

 

Proposed Changes to the Joint Commission’s Suicide Prevention Safety Goal

The Joint Commission has proposed some changes to it’s national patient safety goal for suicide prevention. The proposed requirements were posted for comments on Monday, March 20 and comments will be accepted as part of the filed review through May 1, 2017.

The suicide safety goal continues to apply only to patients in behavioral health institution and patients in hospitals who are being treated for emotional or behavioral disorders. The proposed standard calls for the use of evidence-based assessment tools for screening and for a more in-depth assessment when patients are screened as a potential suicide risk.

What the proposed standard does NOT do is provide clarity about patients in the emergency department who are being medically screened and when the fundamental decision about whether to place the patient on an involuntary hold is being made. These new standards may provide an opportunity to provide clarity for this problematic issue.

Stay tuned for our final analysis and a copy of our comments, which will be posted on this site in the near future.

Click HERE to visit the Joint Commission web page related to the field review of these proposed standards.

Tynisha Smallwood,  Associate Consultant