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Get Clarity on COVID Compliance

What’s going on right now with COVID-19 rules and compliance? That’s a complicated question because the answer is that it depends on your state and what kind of business you have.

But let’s break it down and simplify as much as possible.

Federal Rules Around COVID-19

Most recently, OSHA has withdrawn its federal vaccinate-or-test mandate for businesses with 100 or more employees. However the OSHA general duty clause and its general standards, including the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Respiratory Protection Standards, still apply.

Separately, the CMS Interim Final Rule (IFR) is in place for the following Medicare or Medicaid-certified healthcare facilities:

  • Ambulatory Surgical Centers (ASCs)
  • Hospices
  • Hospitals (acute care hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, hospital swing beds, long term care hospitals, children’s hospitals, transplant centers, cancer hospitals, and rehabilitation hospitals/inpatient rehabilitation facilities)
  • Long Term Care (LTC) Facilities, including Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs) and Nursing Facilities (NFs) (nursing homes)
  • Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (ICFs-IID)
  • Home Health Agencies (HHAs)
  • Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE)
  • Comprehensive Outpatient Rehabilitation Facilities (CORFs)
  • Psychiatric residential treatment facilities (PRTFs)
  • Clinics, rehabilitation agencies, and public health agencies such as providers of outpatient physical therapy and speech-language pathology services
  • Community Mental Health Centers (CMHCs)
  • Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs)
  • Home Infusion Therapy (HIT) suppliers
  • Rural Health Clinics (RHCs)/Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs)
  • End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) Facilities
  • Indian Health Service (IHS) Facilities

For these healthcare businesses, you’ll need to comply with the CMS Interim Final Rule (IFR) standards, which include:

  • a vaccine requirement for covered staff (with religious or medical exemptions allowed)
  •  collecting and storing vaccination data
  • contingency planning for unvaccinated staff.

For vaccination deadlines by state, please refer to this CMS table.

What should healthcare facilities do?

Even if your facility isn’t covered by the CMS rule, it’s wise to plan for the future and take some protective measures now if you haven’t already. OSHA says that it plans to use the now-withdrawn ETS as a proposed permanent COVID-19 standard. Complying with these rules requires advanced planning and coordination, so start now.

  1. Establish a Safety Coordinator. This person should have knowledge & experience in workplace safety and work closely with management to plan and implement needed changes.
  2. Conduct a Hazard Assessment. This assessment should include non-management staff and source feedback from a wide range of stakeholders.
  3. Update or create a Vaccination Policy and Infection Control and Prevention Policies. These should be distributed to all staff, read and signed, and accessible to everyone in the facility.
  4. Create or update screening and tracking methods. You’ll want to screen for any signs of illness and be able to offer information for contact tracing efforts if needed.
  5. Document Engineering Control measures and Barriers. If your Safety Coordinator or another expert recommends you make changes to your facility, such as ventilation upgrades or erection of barriers, document every change so you can present the evidence during a survey. Also be sure to document existing measures!
  6. Maintain records and reporting as required. Determine how you’ll document vaccination status, if you are tracking that, and also how you’ll document and report positive COVID cases. Localities have different reporting requirements so be sure to check with your local health department to determine what is appropriate.
  7. Implement Infection Control and Prevention. Implement your Infection Control and Prevention policy and communicate it to staff. Maintain a regular cleaning schedule for (1) infection prevention, (2) staff peace of mind, and (3) optics when surveyors come so the presumption is that you are putting effort into infection control.
  8. Train staff and communicate with them regularly. Staff need to be trained and informed of new policies. They also need to be heard. Be sure to maintain open communication with staff to reduce the likelihood of friction when implementing policies.
  9. Update or create policy and structure around the use of PPE. Documented policies fulfill OSHA requirements and show that your company is taking measures to protect employees.

State or Local Standards

Remember that you may have specific state or local requirements that differ from these, and that could apply to healthcare facilities that are not covered by the CMS IFR or facilities that don’t have a relationship with CMS.

State requirements may be more stringent. For example, the Illinois Department of Public Health has adopted the CDC recommendations for COVID 19.

Local health departments also have varying reporting requirements so please refer to them when creating or updating your policies.

Need Help Staying Organized?

The CMS rule, as well as the OSHA general duty clause and other state and local requirements, put tremendous burdens on healthcare businesses to document and track a whole new realm of information.

How are you keeping track of vaccination status? Who has reviewed and signed policies? How do you document any number of other details you now must track? 

If your current system is a filing cabinet or a complicated spreadsheet, it’s time to consider an update — to reduce staff workload and for the health of your business. Misfiled documents or disorganized systems lead to hours of extra work and can also result in penalties if your facility fails a survey.

MedTrainer specializes in helping overwhelmed healthcare staff get a handle on these types of tedious, detailed compliance tasks.

  • Our tools reduce human error and free up staff time by systematizing and automating routine compliance tasks, like distributing policies to employees.
  • Never lose track of a document because everything is stored on our cloud-based system, accessible from anywhere at any time, for regular review or to present during a CMS survey.
  • Effortlessly maintain documentation of all kinds, like staff receipt of and signatures on office policies.

This is just the beginning of what MedTrainer offers. Call one of our product experts at (888) 337-0288 to learn more about how we help. Or schedule a demo here.