Joint Commission stops considering Plans for Improvement

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has asked the Joint Commission to make several changes to its Statement of Conditions process and the Joint Commission will no longer consider hospital Plans for Improvement (PFIs) starting Aug. 1, the American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE) told its members in an Advocacy Alert email blast this month. The major changes, which were announced at ASHE’s annual meeting in Denver by George Mills, FASHE, CEM, CHFM, CHSP, director of engineering with the Joint Commission's Department of Engineering, call for all life safety deficiencies to be corrected within 60 days, although a time-limited waiver process will be available through CMS regional offices. Mills said the PFI process still can be used as an internal management process.

HHS announces last Ebola regional treatment center

The California Department of Public Health and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles will serve as the last of 10 regional treatment centers for patients with Ebola and other severe, highly infectious diseases, the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) announced. They are part of a national network of Ebola treatment centers and assessment hospitals with enhanced capabilities to treat patients with confirmed Ebola or other highly infectious diseases, created in the wake of the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa and funded through an emergency congressional appropriation.

CMS issues correction to new fire safety requirements

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in June published a correction to its recently updated fire safety standards for hospitals. The May final rule adopted the National Fire Protection Association’s 2012 Life Safety Code (with minor amendments) and most chapters of its 2012 Health Care Facilities Code for hospitals and certain other facilities that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. The correction states that hospital outpatient surgical departments must meet Life Safety Code provisions applicable to ambulatory health care occupancies, “regardless of the number of patients served.” The standards for ambulatory health care occupancies normally apply to facilities that provide services simultaneously to four or more patients.

Agencies issue ransomware prevention/response guidance

The departments of Homeland Security, Justice, and Health & Human Services have issued technical guidance summarizing existing best practices to prevent and respond to ransomware incidents when cyber actors use malicious software to deny access to systems or data and demand a ransom payment. The fastest-growing malware threat, ransomware can disrupt health care services and damage sensitive data beyond recovery, the guidance notes. Recommended actions include educating personnel and implementing certain preventive and business continuity measures. If infected, organizations should immediately report incidents to their FBI Cyber Task Force field office or Secret Service field office for assistance, and to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center. 

AHRQ report summarizes research on telehealth’s clinical benefits

Telehealth interventions produce positive outcomes when used for remote monitoring, communication and counseling for patients with chronic conditions and for psychiatric services provided as part of behavioral health, according to a new report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Based on 58 systemic reviews assessing the impact of telehealth on clinical outcomes, “the most consistent benefit has been reported when telehealth is used for communication and counseling or remote monitoring in chronic conditions such as cardiovascular and respiratory disease, with improvements in outcomes such as mortality, quality of life and reductions in hospital admissions,” the report states. “Given sufficient evidence of effectiveness for these topics, the focus of future research should shift to implementation and practice-based research.”

CDC issues preparedness plan for locally acquired Zika cases

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in June issued an interim plan for responding to locally acquired cases of Zika virus infection in the continental U.S. and Hawaii. As of June 15, only travel-associated cases have been reported in the continental United States. The response plan outlines state and CDC activities to prevent and reduce local transmission once it has been identified. According to the CDC, Zika infections appear to be increasing rapidly in Puerto Rico, based on a 1.1 percent infection rate among local blood donations in the week ending June 11.