The Joint Commission (TJC) is resuming regular surveys and reviews after suspending them at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Safety will be “the first and foremost priority” as surveys and reviews are resumed and the survey’s will “assess the impact that the coronavirus pandemic had on their operations and their current state.”   The surveys will not review compliance retroactively.   Additionally, TJC identified safety practices that will be employed during the survey process, such as:

  • Limiting the numbers of individuals in group sessions. The use of audio or video conference calls can be incorporated by the organization to safely expand the number of attendees.
  • Minimizing the number of people who accompany the surveyor on tracer activities.
  • Using masks will be a routine practice, and we will expect the organization to provide masks and/or other personal protective equipment (PPE) to surveyors and reviewers while on-site.
  • Maximizing the use of technology to eliminate the need for a number of people to sit directly next to an individual for an extended time. For example, conducting electronic medical record reviews using screen-sharing or displaying/projecting the record. Other examples include simulating an activity if we are unable to enter a high-risk space, and interviewing patients or staff by phone.
  • Driving in separate cars to off-site locations or home visits.

A report published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control found that emergency room visits declined by 42 percent between March 29 and April 25.  The authors provide that:

The striking decline in ED visits nationwide, with the highest declines in regions where the pandemic was most severe in April 2020, suggests that the pandemic has altered the use of the ED by the public. Persons who use the ED as a safety net because they lack access to primary care and telemedicine might be disproportionately affected if they avoid seeking care because of concerns about the infection risk in the ED.

The World Health Organization has clarified that whether a an asymptomatic person can transmit the coronavirus remains “a major unknown.”  On Monday June 8, a WHO official stated that such transmissions are “very rare” in response to a question from a journalist.

Norton Rose Fulbright attorneys will continue to provide relevant updates for healthcare providers on the Health Law Pulse during the COVID-19 public health crisis.