Communications Plan for Healthcare
The Department of Health and Human Services – Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published new emergency preparedness requirements for healthcare organizations in the Federal Register on September 8, 2016, § 482.15(c). A section of the guidelines required all covered facilities to have detailed communication plans in place no later than November 16, 2017.
The rules affect not only hospitals but 17 different healthcare organization types including; dialysis centers, hospice centers, ambulatory surgery centers, and long–term care facilities.
CMS identified four core elements that are central to an effective and comprehensive framework of emergency preparedness requirements. The four elements are:
- Risk assessment and emergency planning;
- Policies and procedures
- Communications Planning
- Training and testing
Under the rules, healthcare organizations must develop and maintain an emergency preparedness communication plan that complies with Federal, State, and local laws. The communication plan must validate how the facility will coordinate patient care within the facility, across healthcare providers, and with State and local public health departments. The communication plan must demonstrate how the facility interacts and coordinates with emergency management agencies and systems to protect patients.
Covered entities must specifically;
- Have a written communication plan that is updated annually.
- Document the entity’s primary and alternate means of communications with other hospitals as well as federal, regional, and local emergency management agencies.
- Conduct annual drills and education for emergency preparedness employees and volunteers.
Other requirements that may impact communication system requirements include:
- A means for providing information on the hospital’s occupancy, needs, and ability to provide assistance to others.
- Methods for information sharing needs.
- Methods for sharing patient information and medical documentation with other providers to maintain continuity of care.
Many of these requirements rely upon our organization’s communication systems and the continued ability to provide communications after a disaster.