Normalizing relations – a step in a good direction…

By Steve MacArthur, Hospital Safety Consultant

A few weeks ago, the good folks at CMS revised their take on how they were going to be surveying organizations relative to their handling of COVID-19 as a specific focus. Much as the adoption of emerging infectious diseases (EID) preparedness has resulted in a broadening of expectations, the management of EIDs in general, inclusive of COVID-19, will be the marching orders for surveyors.

One of the interesting (at least to me) observations contained in the updated guidance (which you can find here: ) is a somewhat relaxed approach to how healthcare organizations are managing outside visitors: “We  recognize  that  restricting  visitation  from  family  and other loved ones  has  taken a physical  and  emotional  toll  on patients,” and based on continued  federal guidance  “visitation  restrictions  for  ACC  facilities  are  no longer  necessary.”

I can’t help but think that this might even be tacit acknowledgement that hospitals have done a pretty good job of managing this part of the puzzle (and what a puzzle it’s been – I long for the days that we can sit back and chuckle about all the gyrations, etc., we went through). But even if it’s not, just the acknowledgement of how all this stuff impacted patients seems like something of a breakthrough.

As much as I might hope that this could continue towards some flexibility when it comes to holiday decorations, I’m not holding my breath. I do believe that there is a therapeutic value to the environment looking cheerful, but that one’s tough to quantify as a function of the management of fire risks. But I digress.

Of course, one must always defer to state and local ordinances/guidance with all this stuff; I’m thinking those of you in areas serviced by cruise ships might have a more challenging time getting out of this in terms of specific restrictions, etc., as things get going.

The Public Health Emergency is still in place, but I do think that if you’ve adopted any waivers as a result of the PHE, the 60-day reset clock seems to be more than a little closer on the horizon than it might have even a few weeks ago. Probably good to start planning for that normalization exercise.

About the Author: Steve MacArthur is a safety consultant with The Greeley Company in Danvers, Mass. He brings more than 30 years of healthcare management and consulting experience to his work with hospitals, physician offices, and ambulatory care facilities across the country. He is the author of HCPro's Hospital Safety Director's Handbook and is contributing editor for Healthcare Safety Leader. Contact Steve at