It's not pleasant to think about, but you need to have a plan in place for dealing with emergencies at your agency.

Complying with the new CoPs rule on emergency preparedness


Disaster striking your home health agency is not a pleasant scenario to imagine, but one that’s necessary to think about. It’s essential to have an emergency plan in place ahead of time so that you can quickly pivot operations and continue providing care to patients.

Being prepared for a disaster is all the more relevant in the HHA industry at the moment because emergency preparedness is now a part of the Medicare conditions of participation (CoPs). HHAs are now required to have an emergency program.

Here’s what you need to know about developing emergency preparedness at your agency:

Understanding the CMS rule
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services now mandates that all agencies must have an emergency preparedness plan. Such a program should protect patient health in the event of an emergency that affects operations, and covers both natural and man-made events, according to CMS.

CMS says the emergency plan should be based on four main areas:

  1. Risk assessment and emergency planning.
  2. Policies and procedures.
  3. Communication plan.
  4. Training and testing.

CMS requires that continuous testing of the plan is performed to see if it needs updating or changes from lessons learned. Read more about the rule here.

Creating your plan 
Keeping these four guidelines in mind, your emergency plan should specify what steps to take in the event of a disaster. Think about potential scenarios, such as what should be done if there is a water main break, gas leak or shut off, blackout, fire or loss of power. How will you communicate with patients if a phone system is down? Are there steps you can take to prepare for an impending natural disaster, such as a hurricane or wildfire? What actions should be taken in the event of man-made event, such as a robbery or active shooter? How will the authorities be contacted? These and other questions need to be extensively explored.

“Key to effective disaster preparedness is having constantly up-to-date information on patient needs.”

Establishing a priority list 
Another important issue is determining how you will prioritize patient care in an emergency. How will you manage those patients whose care relies on electricity and water?

An EMR with disaster preparedness features will provide essential triage support. Using Thornberry’s NDoc® solution, nurses can run a Priority List report which tells them which patients on oxygen need to be seen, those who can be called and those with support who do not need to be called or visited during that time.

Having the information you need ready 
The key to effective disaster preparedness is having constantly up-to-date information on patient needs. In NDoc®, nurses can add to a patient’s emergency plan at any time to specify what may be needed for the individual’s care in a disaster. For example, the nurse can note that the patient needs bottled water, batteries, matches, flashlights, enough medications for two weeks and so on. This data then pulls to a report that can be instantly retrieved in an emergency. Reports can be run daily and weekly so staff and clinicians have the most updated information on patients.

With an in-depth plan and an EMR enabling up-to-date patient priority reports, your home health agency can comply with the CoPs and be better prepared in the event of an emergency.