How safe are hospitals during a disaster? CMS’ New Rule Impacts Healthcare Organizations Across the

When a disaster hits a community, there is not a more vulnerable population than patients in healthcare facilities who, without choice, rely entirely on their healthcare providers for their personal and medical needs. While the facility may offer premier care to its patients, its healthcare workers may or may not know how to properly care for their patients during an emergency situation such as a natural or man-made disaster. Shouldn’t the individuals responsible for patients’ care, also be responsible for their safety during an emergency?

Until now, the majority of healthcare emergency preparedness programs have been instituted by healthcare facilities that provide emergency medical care (i.e. hospitals). Other smaller types of providers such as long-term care facilities, skilled nursing facilities, ambulatory surgical centers, and community mental health centers have not been required to develop an emergency management plan.

As of September 2016, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has mandated that all healthcare providers receiving Medicare and Medicaid funds, have a robust disaster plan in place to ensure that the needs of patients, residents, and clients are met, during and after an emergency situation.

“This final rule establishes national emergency preparedness requirements for Medicare- and Medicaid-participating providers and suppliers to plan adequately for both natural and man-made disasters, and coordinate with federal, state, tribal, regional, and local emergency preparedness systems. It will also assist providers and suppliers to adequately prepare to meet the needs of patients, residents, clients, and participants during disasters and emergency situations. Despite some variations, our regulations will provide consistent emergency preparedness requirements, enhance patient safety during emergencies for persons served by Medicare- and Medicaid-participating facilities, and establish a more coordinated and defined response to natural and man-made disasters," (Federal Register, Vol. 81, No. 180, Friday, September 16, 2016 -Rules and Regulations).

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With the new rule, CMS will not only require healthcare providers to meet certain planning and exercise requirements, but they also “encourage providers and suppliers to coordinate their preparedness efforts within their own communities and states as well as across state lines, as necessary, to achieve their goals," (Federal Register, Vol. 81, No. 180, Friday, September 16, 2016 -Rules and Regulations).

“The fact is, for every $1 a hospital spends in preparedness – they save an estimated $4 in response,” (IAEM Bulletin, July 2017). While it may appear to be daunting to take the first step towards emergency preparedness planning, our subject matter experts at VPC can provide assistance to small and medium-sized healthcare facilities to be better prepared to face, and recover from, natural and man-made disasters.

VPC offers expertise in all phases of emergency management, including preparedness, mitigation, and recovery. Additionally, we provide planning, public outreach, stakeholder engagement, and custom technology solutions to assist communities and healthcare organizations to reduce their risk, protect people, secure physical assets and improve their economic well-being. Our related services include but are not limited to: Critical infrastructure assessments, vulnerability and risk assessments, emergency operations planning, and continuity of operations planning. Contact us today to discuss how VPC can help your healthcare organization can be better prepared during an emergency.

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