Joint Commission issues update to its guidelines for emergency management

The Joint Commission has updated its guidelines for emergency preparedness.

In response to a CMS final rule on emergency preparedness that was issued last fall, the Joint Commission has updated its guidelines for emergency management across several healthcare settings. 

The changes will take effect Nov. 15 and impact hospitals, ambulatory healthcare facilities, critical access hospitals and home health providers. The updates are designed to help these providers plan more effectively for natural disasters and other emergencies, and better coordinate with local, state, regional and federal authorities on response. 

Enhanced guidelines were also released for rural health clinics and federally qualified health centers to keep the requirements equal across ambulatory care providers, according to the accreditor.

“In recent years, there have been more reported emergencies affecting communities across the country,” John Maurer, engineer in the commission's Department of Engineering, said in announcement emailed to FierceHealthcare. “The updated standards show a renewed focus on continuity of operations, integration with community and regional emergency planning, and leadership engagement.” 

RELATED: 3 areas hospitals may overlook in disaster planning 

In total, the updates include 21 new or revised elements of performance for hospitals and critical access hospitals, 29 for ambulatory surgery centers and 39 for home health agencies. Focus areas for the new measures include: 

  • Having a plan for succession and continuity of response in place.
  • Documenting work done in collaboration with emergency management officials.
  • Keeping a list of contact information for potential stakeholder groups or collaborators.
  • Training staff each year on disaster response and keep the training up to date. 

RELATED: Emergency prep—C-suite's role in a disaster 

Maurer said partnerships, both with public agencies and other providers, will be key to successfully implementing the new guidelines. The Joint Commission will support and be a resource for these changes, he said. 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued its final rule on emergency preparedness in September 2016, and it requires that Medicare and Medicaid providers comply with four best practices: 

  • Establish a comprehensive emergency management plan that is based on the facility's individual risk level, needs and capabilities.
  • Build a range of policies and procedures from the framework of that plan.
  • Create a separate communications plan that complies with state and federal law to ensure effective coordination with local authorities.
  • Develop a training program that includes annual and initial programs, plus regular drills. 

The Department of Health and Human Services has also issued guidelines on how healthcare organizations can support staff in the event of a disaster, including offering behavioral and mental health services and helping them find shelter and transportation. 

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