States issue vaccine distribution guidelines 

Health care facilities can obtain state vaccine distribution plans via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 Vaccination Program Operational Guidance webpage. The plans for each state and territory serve as a playbook to help hospitals and public health departments plan and operationalize a vaccination response to COVID-19 within their jurisdictions. The documents cover specific areas of COVID-19 vaccination program planning and implementation and provide key guidance and links to resources to assist those efforts.

Joint Commission modifies EC survey process 

The Joint Commission has modified its Environment of Care (EC) survey process for ambulatory surgery centers (those that are deemed and/or assigned Life Safety Code surveyors), critical access hospitals and hospitals. The change — which went into effect Jan. 1 — eliminates the one-hour, sit-down EC discussion with members of the safety or EC committee. Content from this session will be integrated into the document review and building tours conducted by the Life Safety Code surveyors. Also, EC topics will be incorporated during individual tracer activities completed by the clinical surveyors. To supplement this change, the annual Survey Activity Guide will provide a Life Safety and Environment of Care Document List and Review Tool that includes additional EC standards and the organizational survey agenda. 

Joint Commission updates EM guidance 

Effective Jan. 1, The Joint Commission made changes to Standard EM.03.01.03 to provide better emergency management (EM) guidance and consistency across its accreditation programs. The expectation of this standard is that an accredited organization conducts exercises to assess the adequacy and effectiveness of its EM plan in regard to logistics, human resources, training, policies, procedures and protocols. The ambulatory health care, behavioral health care, laboratory, nursing care center and office-based surgery programs will have some elements of performance consolidated within this standard, along with guidance on the types of emergency exercises these types of organizations can choose to perform.

CMS enhances hospital capacity during surge

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) outlined comprehensive steps to increase the capacity of the U.S. health care system to provide care to patients outside a traditional hospital setting amid a rising number of COVID-19 hospitalizations. These flexibilities include allowances for safe hospital care for eligible patients in their homes and updated staffing flexibility designed to allow ambulatory surgical centers to provide greater inpatient care when needed. Building on CMS’s previous actions to expand the availability of telehealth across the nation, these actions are aimed at allowing health care services to be provided outside a hospital setting while maintaining capacity to continue critical non-COVID-19 care, allowing hospitals to focus on the increased need for care stemming from the public health emergency.