By AJ Plunkett
Expect CMS surveyors to be referring to recommendations set out by The Joint Commission (TJC) last fall when looking for ligature risk and other environmental hazards in the push to make hospitals and psychiatric units safer for patients at-risk of self-harm.
For now, assess your hospital’s environmental compliance against those TJC recommendations, regardless of what organization you might use for accreditation, and be prepared to provide one-to-one observation of at-risk patients if you cannot provide a ligature-resistant environment, says one safety consultant.
In a new memo to its state survey agencies, CMS said it would use those TJC recommendations — drawn from a task force convened by the accreditor that included several CMS experts in suicide prevention — as the federal agency goes forward with clarifying and updating interpretive guidelines for its surveyors.
The memo QSO: 18-21-All Hospitals, “CMS clarification of Psychiatric Environmental Risks,” from the Quality, Safety & Oversight Group (QSO), formerly known as the Survey and Certification Group, is dated July 20, although it was not posted online until August 1.
CMS says TJC panel good enough
In earlier communications, CMS had indicated it would convene its own group of experts to update its guidance to increase focus on ligature as well as other physical risks covered under the Condition of Participation for patient rights to care in a safe setting.
However, since participating in the TJC panel, CMS officials now think its own panel would be redundant. “CMS felt that to repeat the work of TJC Suicide Panel (in which CMS participated) would not provide any substantive additional gains and would not be a productive use of the time and expertise of the participants,” according to the newest memo.
CMS is still working to revise the interpretive guidelines for its surveyors but referred regional offices for now to expectations set out in its December 8 memo on clarifying ligature risk, S&C 18-06-Hospitals. That memo carried extensive guidance, including an initial update to parts of the interpretive guidelines found in Medicare’s State Operations Manual, Appendix A (SOMA).
Expect more changes in the future, though. In the most recent memo, CMS said it would continue to work on updates to Appendix A as well as Appendix AA, guidelines for surveyors at psychiatric hospitals, “which will incorporate the standards that were recommended via the collaborative work of the TJC Suicide Panel Special Report: Suicide Prevention in Health Care Settings.” The memo provided an online link to the November TJC recommendations.