By A.J. Plunkett
As of May 2, DNV Healthcare will resume doing all its annual NIAHO® surveys onsite and unannounced now that COVID-19 rates are going down.
DNV, like other accrediting organizations (AO) and federal survey offices, returned to onsite triennial surveys several months ago as required by CMS.
However, DNV’s accreditation process also requires annual surveys and has been doing those remotely for most part.
Noting that the AO said in January that it was likely to continue the remote annual surveys through at least April, DNV announced through an advisory March 23 that “COVID-19 positivity rates, hospitalizations, and community transmission have dropped significantly, making it much safer to return to onsite survey activities.”
The return to onsite surveys applies to all accreditation surveys in hospitals, critical access hospitals and psychiatric hospitals, and will include “accreditation surveys for new applicant hospitals (Medicare 855), initial DNV deemed accreditation surveys (AO conversion, first-time accreditation, new subprovider certifications), non-deemed accreditation surveys, investigation of substantial allegations, and any condition-level follow-up surveys or special survey activities related to onsite accreditation surveys.”
The AO noted, however, that it will continue to monitor local and national COVID-19 conditions “and make adjustments to survey arrangements accordingly. Hospitals that are still in COVID-19-related distress but expecting survey between May and July 2022 may request postponement based on criteria found in our January 25 Advisory Notice. Revised CMS guidance for accreditation organizations or discontinuation of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency may result in changes to these postponement criteria or other accreditation flexibilities.”
Surveys for programs such as stroke, orthopedics, cardiac, infection prevention, glycemic management, sterile processing, and palliative care certification will continue “to be scheduled in advance and coordinated with the facility.”
DNV also noted that its surveyors will still be meeting CDC guidelines for vaccination against COVID-19 and will continue to wear masks or other face coverings. “Surveyors will also follow your organization’s protocols for screening, sanitizing, PPE, and distancing, including use of videoconference technology to accommodate restrictions on staff or access limitations to higher risk areas within the facility.”
While CDC has announced new COVID-19 community recommendations, DNV said they do not apply in healthcare settings, such as hospitals and nursing homes. “Instead, healthcare settings should continue to use community transmission rates and continue to follow CDC’s infection prevention and control recommendations for healthcare settings.”
The DNV announcement also carried a reminder that the current federal public health emergency (PHE) declaration is expected to remain in effect until at least April 16.
HHS has promised states it would notify states at least 60 days ahead of time before it lifts the PHE, which would also then impact any compliance waivers or other flexibilities CMS granted healthcare facilities to cope with the pandemic when it was declared more than two years ago.
A.J. Plunkett is editor of Inside Accreditation & Quality, a Simplify Compliance publication.