October 10, 2017 | Net Health

3 min read

What You Need to Know About the CMS Emergency Preparedness Rule


How will a hospice or long-term care facility respond in the event that its city is evacuated due to hurricane warnings? Where will patients receive the care they need? How will family members be notified of any necessary move?

As many of us recover from recent hurricanes, the damage these natural disasters have caused is a reminder that all providers need to be prepared in the event of an emergency. This reminder couldn’t be timelier as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) new Emergency Preparedness Rule takes effect this November.

Are you prepared? CMS’ final rule, titled Emergency Preparedness Requirements for Medicare and Medicaid Participating Providers and Suppliers, will go into effect on November 16, 2017. At that point, providers will need to be compliant with the rule, which was established to ensure “adequate planning for both natural and man-made disasters, and coordination with federal, state, tribal, regional and local emergency preparedness systems,” CMS said in announcing the rule.

CMS’ emergency preparedness requirements apply to healthcare providers across 17 settings—including long-term care facilities and hospices, and focuses on four key components of an emergency response:

  • Emergency Plan: Providers must develop an emergency plan utilizing an all-hazards approach focusing on capacities and capabilities critical to preparedness for a full spectrum of emergencies or disasters.
  • Policies and Procedures: Develop and implement policies and procedures based on the emergency plan and risk assessment.
  • Communication Plan: Develop and maintain a communication plan that complies with both federal and state law. Patient care must be well-coordinated within the facility, across healthcare providers, and with state and local public health departments and emergency systems.
  • Training and Testing Program: Develop and maintain training and testing programs, including initial and annual trainings, and conduct drills and exercises or participate in an annual incident that tests the emergency plan.

Because not every setting will require the same response plans, procedures, communications and training, CMS acknowledges that these standards must be adjusted to reflect the characteristics of each type of provider and care setting. Regardless of the setting and care type, all providers must have their emergency plans and procedures locked in place by November 16.

As the implementation date approaches, it is crucial to have processes in your agency’s emergency plan ironed out. Among some of the helpful resources available are CMS’ Emergency Preparedness Checklist, which provides a comprehensive catalog of every emergency protocol that must be addressed.

CMS’ Emergency Preparedness Interpretive Guidelines are also available, which serve to clarify and explain the intent of the emergency preparedness rule as it was written to be implemented.

How Optima Can Help You

Helping our customers prepare for new compliance requirements is always top of mind at Optima. Because Optima Hospice and Optima Therapy software is cloud-based, we’re able to ensure the integrity and reliability of patient data through truly anytime, anywhere access to the system. We also provide capabilities to help you prioritize, share and disseminate vital patient information (medical status, medication, contacts, etc.) in the event of an emergency. Most of all, we’re here to support you through the transition. For any questions about this and other compliance requirements, please contact our dedicated customer support team at Support@OptimaHCS.com.

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