AHA president discusses hospital priorities for 2017

American Hospital Association (AHA) President and CEO Rick Pollack has laid out the association’s health care priorities as it enters a new year and prepares for a new White House administration. The association represents nearly 5,000 member hospitals, health systems and other health care organizations.

In his column, Pollack acknowledges uncertainty among health care organizations during this time of government transition, but also expresses the AHA’s commitment to work with policymakers in helping to shape the future of health care to support hospitals in meeting their missions to provide care 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Pollack also addresses the fate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). “We want to make sure that, if the ACA is repealed, an appropriate replacement bill is in place to simultaneously provide coverage to those 20 million people who were previously uninsured,” he writes.

HHS awards more than $50 million for new health center sites

Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced more than $50 million in funding for 75 health centers in 23 states, Puerto Rico and the Federated States of Micronesia.

“We expect this competitive New Access Point funding to provide health care to more than 240,000 additional patients,” says Mary Wakefield, R.N., acting deputy secretary at HHS. “These new health center sites will contribute significantly to the health of families and communities across the nation.”

FDA warns of fire hazard associated with some battery-powered mobile medical carts

The Food and Drug Administration says it has seen reports of explosion, fires, smoking, or overheating of equipment that required hospital evacuations associated with the batteries inside mobile medical carts.

Battery-powered mobile medical carts include crash carts, medication dispensing carts, and carts that carry and power medical devices for point of care, barcode scanners, and patient monitoring. These carts typically have high capacity lithium or lead acid batteries that can power medical devices and workstations (computers) for many hours.

The FDA has issued several recommendations for preventive maintenance and what to do if a fire occurs.

CMS issues fire-safety survey and certification memo

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently issued a survey and certification memo stating that health care facilities may use the 2013 edition of the Fire Safety Evaluation System (FSES) to demonstrate compliance with fire-safety requirements.

CMS adopted the National Fire Protection Agency’s 101A Life Safety Code last year and began surveying to the new standard in November. The memo states that “if the FSES is being used to demonstrate compliance with the fire safety requirements, the version of the FSES for Health Care Occupancies as well as Board and Care Occupancies found in the 2013 edition of the Guide on Alternative Approaches to Life Safety, NFPA 101A must be used.”

FDA issues final guidance on cybersecurity for post-market medical devices

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released final guidance on the postmarket management of medical device cybersecurity. It joins a previous final guidance on medical device premarket cybersecurity issued in October 2014.

The FDA has outlined recommended steps for manufacturers to take to remain vigilant and continually address the cybersecurity risks of marketed medical devices. They include, among other things:

  • Devise a way to monitor and detect cybersecurity vulnerabilities in their devices.
  • Understand, assess and detect the level of risk a vulnerability poses to patient safety.
  • Establish a process for working with cybersecurity researchers and other stakeholders to receive information about potential vulnerabilities (known as a “coordinated vulnerability disclosure policy”).
  • Deploy mitigations (e.g., software patches) to address cybersecurity issues early, before they can be exploited and cause harm.

Report analyzes public health emergency preparedness state by state

A new report card from the Trust for America’s Health examines emergency preparedness on a state-by-state basis. “Ready or Not? Protecting the Public from Diseases, Disasters and Bioterrorism,” scored states, as well as Washington, D.C., on 10 key indicators of public health preparedness.

Overall, the report found improved emergency operations, communication and coordination; support for the Strategic National Stockpile and the ability to distribute medicines and vaccines during crises; upgrades in public health laboratories and food-borne illness detection capabilities; and improvements in legal and liability protections during emergencies. However, there remains a lack of a coordinated, interoperable, near real-time biosurveillance system; insufficient support for research and development of new medicines, vaccines and medical equipment to keep pace with emerging threats; gaps in the ability of the system to care for a mass influx of patients during a major outbreak or attack; and cuts to the public health workforce, according to the report.

Health emergency preparedness funding for states has been cut by $280 million since fiscal 2002, while health system preparedness funding for states has been cut by more than half since fiscal 2005 — down to $255 million, the report notes.

Joint Commission posts 2017 Survey Activity Guide

The Joint Commission’s 2017 Accreditation Survey Activity Guide for Health Care Organizations is now available. The organization states there are minimal changes that impact all programs. It also notes that hospitals, critical access hospitals and nursing care centers will want to reference new content related to the January 2017 implementation of the antimicrobial stewardship standard (MM.09.01.01).