(April 10 – 16, 2020)

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance and Resources
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Government agencies continued their efforts to provide COVID-19 guidance and resources to health care providers:

  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) continued to host multiple COVID-19 related calls and podcasts. Recently posted items include calls on telehealth, front line nursing, “Hospitals Without Walls,” and CMS’s “Office Hours” call with hospitals and health systems. Transcripts and audio of these events can be found here.
  • CMS temporarily waived a number of supervision, certification, and licensure requirements in an effort to bolster and provide flexibility to frontline health care workforces. Some of these waivers include permitting remotely located physicians to directly care for patients at rural hospitals via telehealth services (including across state lines, if necessary) and an expansion of the scope of practice for nurse practitioners and occupational therapists.
  • In an effort to expand COVID-19 testing and diagnosis, CMS announced that Medicare will nearly double the payments it makes for certain COVID-19 laboratory tests that use high-throughput technologies. These increased payments are designed to particularly help those individuals, such as nursing home residents, who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 outbreaks. More information can be found here.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) issued a second emergency use authorization (“EUA”) to decontaminate N95 respirators for reuse. This EUA permits hospitals to decontaminate compatible N95 or N95-equivalent respirators using vaporized hydrogen peroxide sterilization.
  • In further efforts to expand COVID-19 testing and diagnosis, the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) released guidance authorizing licensed pharmacists to order and administer FDA-authorized COVID-19 tests, including serology tests. More information can be found here.
  • The HHS Office for Civil Rights announced that it will exercise its enforcement discretion not to impose penalties against covered entities or their business associates for certain violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act in connection with the good faith participation in the operation of COVID-19 Community-Based Testing Sites. This enforcement discretion has retroactive effect to March 13, 2020. More information can be found here.
  • The HHS Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) updated its Work Plan. The OIG Work Plan summarizes new, ongoing, and revised areas of review that the OIG plans to pursue. These latest updates include audits and evaluations of HHS’s production and distribution of COVID-19 lab test kits, CMS’s internal controls regarding hospital preparedness for infectious disease epidemics like COVID-19, hospital compliance with CMS emergency preparedness requirements, and HHS agencies’ adherence to health, safety, and operational protocols during repatriation and quarantine efforts for the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Joint Commission Updates its Standards FAQ

The Joint Commission has updated its hospital and critical access hospital Standards FAQ databases with additional information regarding COVID-19.  Some of the topics discussed include the use of ambulatory surgery centers as alternative inpatient care sites for hospitals, documentation challenges while providing care under an emergency operations plan, considerations for sterile compounding, and the conservation of facemasks and respirators during a shortage.