Emergencies, by nature, are unexpected. No one knows when they will happen and to what extent they will affect people’s lives. Case in fact was the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency declared almost two years ago, but up until this day still impacts the way we do things, especially with the recent discovery of the Omicron variant. Despite the nature of emergencies though, institutions, especially those in the healthcare sector, can still arm themselves to effectively respond to these situations in order to mitigate their possible human and economic consequences.
This is a need strongly acknowledged by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Thus, in 2017, CMS mandated the Emergency Preparedness Requirements for Medicare and Medicaid Participating Providers and Suppliers which itemizes the four (4) fundamental elements for what we call an Emergency Preparedness Program (EPP). We listed down these elements you need to keep in mind when you draft your agency’s EPP.
- Emergency Plan
Before you develop your emergency plan, you must first conduct a risk assessment. Risks may include hazards present in your geographical location, emergencies related to your care delivery, power and equipment failures, communication interruptions like cyberattacks, supplies loss, and facility loss due to a multitude of reasons such as fire, earthquakes, and other man made or natural disasters. Only when these risks are fully identified, can you develop actions to mitigate your risk exposure such as updating your existing emergency plans, and designing new training programs and exercises. Initially, when the policy was rolled in 2017, the emergency plan review was required by CMS to occur annually. On March 26, 2021, however, they released an updated guidance to lessen the frequency to a biennial review. Only exception to this rule would be long term care (LTC) facilities which will continue to do it annually. The new guidance also eliminates the need for the EPP to include efforts in contacting local, tribal, regional, state, and federal emergency preparedness officials as well as the provider’s participation in collaborative and cooperative planning efforts.
- Policies and Procedures
When the emergency plan is already in place, the second thing to do would be to establish policies and procedures that take into consideration the results of the risk assessment. These should be compliant with federal and state laws and, of course, with the emergency plan. Some of the areas which should have specific and clear policies and procedures are evacuation plans, patient and staff tracking, and subsistence provision to patients and the agency’s staff. It is also advised these policies and procedures are reviewed and updated regularly.
- Communication Plan
In addition to the two elements identified above, agencies are mandated to develop a communication plan that is fully compliant with federal and state laws. The plan would have to include the contact information of the entire agency’s staff, the patients’ physicians, and other necessary persons for emergency situations. This system of communication must also be well-coordinated within the agency, across health care providers, with the local and state public health departments, as well as with emergency management agencies.
- Training and Testing
The fourth and final core element is a training and testing program developed based on your agency’s risk assessment, emergency plan, communication plan, policies and procedures, and federal and state laws. For this element, you would have to determine and lay out who will be target participants for the training, how often they will be trained, how their knowledge will be assessed, and how the training itself will be documented. On testing requirements, your agency must determine the full-scale exercises you will conduct, and in which format they will be. Like the other elements, CMS requires this be maintained and updated at least once a year.
These four elements should never not be included in your Emergency Preparedness Program.
Data Soft Logic, as the software always on your side, wants to help you stay ready for emergencies with our intelligent software solutions. Through features such as vulnerability reports that provide you quick-to-access data on who lives alone and who are on life-sustaining devices, you can immediately respond and act during emergencies. Schedule a demo with us to know more.
As we end the year, don’t forget to honor your patients who have moved on with the help of Hospice Centre’s Bereavement Module. Reach out to their families and loved ones through holiday letters which could only take a few minutes of your time but are enough to make someone smile. This Holiday season, whether you are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanza, celebrate and cherish your loved ones, even those who are no longer here with us.
Data Soft Logic extends our utmost thanks and gratitude to agencies who continue to care for patients and who walk with those at the sunset of their lives. Happy Holidays and may the new year bring hope anew to everyone.
Schedule a demo with us now.