CMS Emergency Preparedness Regulations: What You Need to Know Now

by | Mar 31, 2017

cms-emergency-preparedness-regulations-476197686-200x133On November 16, 2016, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) put into effect new emergency preparedness regulations for healthcare facilities. All Medicare and Medicaid participating providers and suppliers — including diverse types of facilities including hospitals, ambulatory treatment centers, long-term care facilities, and others — must be in compliance with these CMS emergency preparedness regulations.

Every healthcare organization knows that it’s in their best interest as a business, as an employer, and as a care provider to be ready for an emergency. Making sure emergency plans are up to date is now a matter of assuring CMS reimbursements as well.

Healthcare providers and suppliers affected by the CMS emergency preparedness regulations must implement them before November 16, 2017, which means less than eight months remain.

Hospital and health system emergency management teams are asking, will we be ready? Here on the LiveProcess blog, we’ll be looking at the new CMS emergency preparedness requirements from several angles, so healthcare executives and preparedness coordinators can confidently answer yes.

This is the first in a series of blog posts examining the specific emergency preparedness updates required by CMS. Future posts will explore the details of updates to previous CMS emergency preparedness regulations in four key areas:

  • Risk assessment and emergency planning
  • Policies and procedures
  • Communication plans
  • Training and testing

These four areas are the core elements identified by CMS as critical to emergency preparedness.

Why the change?

CMS determined that existing requirements were not enough after major disasters severely tested the emergency preparedness of healthcare facilities nationwide. From terror attacks to catastrophic hurricanes to flu pandemics, the past two decades have made emergency preparedness a front-burner issue for public agencies.

CMS intends that new guidelines will not only increase the emergency preparedness of individual facilities but also, by establishing a common framework, facilitate the kind of communication and collaboration necessary within a community and region when large-scale events occur.

Recovery vs. continuity of operations

Updates to the CMS emergency preparedness regulations focus on continuity of operations rather than recovery of operations. Recovery is an important part of emergency management, but for healthcare facilities especially, continuity is the planning priority. This requirement includes continuing to provide care for current patients and continuing to meet the medical needs of the community, while also treating a patient surge caused by an emergency. Hospitals and other facilities may find it helpful to support their Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) with a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) to be sure that their emergency preparedness program addresses this new CMS focus.

A common healthcare emergency preparedness framework

One of CMS’s primary concerns about the current state of emergency preparedness was the lack of common standards. CMS cites a “patchwork of federal, state, and local laws and guidelines,” along with a variety of accreditation and certification programs, as a source of inconsistency that ultimately weakens disaster preparations. CMS guidelines establish best practices for all facilities, making it easier to coordinate healthcare emergency response within communities and across state lines.

The next steps

Some healthcare facilities may already meet or exceed the new CMS emergency preparedness regulations. But every review (at least annually) of emergency preparedness plans should include review of the current CMS emergency preparedness rule. Follow along with our blog series to get full details on the changes.

You can also down load our brief, LiveProcess Delivers on CMS Emergency Preparedness Rules for Hospitals, to learn how an emergency management solution can address the four core elements — emergency plan, policies and procedures, communication plan, and training and testing program — of the new CMS emergency preparedness regulations.

Next blog post: All-Hazards Approach to Risk Assessment for the CMS Emergency Preparedness Rule.

terry-zysk-100x100Terry Zysk, CEO of LiveProcess, has more than two decades of experience in leading organizations that provide innovative solutions to the healthcare industry.