CMS finalizes new emergency preparedness rule

Accreditation Insider, September 13, 2016

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CMS announced on September 8 that it had finalized new emergency response requirements for healthcare providers participating in the Medicare or Medicaid system. The new rule comes as a response to a string of disasters, natural and mad-made, including the recent flooding in Louisiana. The new rules go into effect on November 8, 2016 and must be implemented by November 15, 2017.

“Situations like the recent flooding in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, remind us that in the event of an emergency, the first priority of healthcare providers and suppliers is to protect the health and safety of their patients,” said CMS Chief Medical Officer Patrick Conway, MD, MSc, in a press release. “Preparation, planning, and one comprehensive approach for emergency preparedness is key. One life lost is one too many.”

The new rules are intended to plug gaps in CMS’ old emergency preparedness regulations. Under the old rules, providers weren’t required to coordinate with other health organizations during an emergency. There wasn’t a requirement for contingency planning and emergency response training for staff either.
Now, healthcare organizations will need to coordinate their plans with federal, state, regional, and local emergency preparedness systems.

The rule requires that healthcare providers meet the following four standards:
1. Emergency plan: Based on a risk assessment, develop an emergency plan using an all-hazards approach focusing on capacities and capabilities that are critical to preparedness for a full spectrum of emergencies or disasters specific to the location of a provider or supplier.
2. Policies and procedures: Develop and implement policies and procedures based on the plan and risk assessment.
3. Communication plan: Develop and maintain a communication plan that complies with both federal and state law. Patient care must be well-coordinated within the facility, across healthcare providers, and with state and local public health departments and emergency systems.
4. Training and testing program: Develop and maintain training and testing programs, including initial and annual trainings, and conduct drills and exercises or participate in an actual incident that tests the plan.

“As people with medical needs are cared for in increasingly diverse settings, disaster preparedness is not only a responsibility of hospitals, but of many other providers and suppliers of healthcare services. Whether it’s trauma care or long-term nursing care or a home health service, patients’ needs for healthcare don’t stop when disasters strike; in fact, their needs often increase in the immediate aftermath of a disaster,” said Dr. Nicole Lurie, Health and Human Services assistant secretary for preparedness and response, in a press release. “All parts of the healthcare system must be able to keep providing care through a disaster, both to save lives and to ensure that people can continue to function in their usual setting. Disasters tend to stress the entire healthcare system, and that’s not good for anyone.”


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