The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has finalized a rule that sets emergency preparedness requirements for health care providers participating in Medicare and Medicaid, the agency announced Sept. 8.

CMS said they reviewed the current emergency preparedness regulations and found the requirements were not comprehensive enough to address the complexities of emergency preparedness. “For example, the requirements did not address the need for: (1) communication to coordinate with other systems of care within cities or states; (2) contingency planning; and (3) training of personnel. CMS proposed policies to address these gaps in the proposed rule, which was open to stakeholder comments.”

Related: Taking care of dialysis patients during an emergency means taking care of clinic staff 

The final rule requires providers and suppliers to meet the following four best practice standards:

  1. Emergency plan: Based on a risk assessment, develop an emergency plan using an all-hazards approach focusing on capacities and capabilities that are critical to preparedness for a full spectrum of emergencies or disasters specific to the location of a provider or supplier.
  2. Policies and procedures: Develop and implement policies and procedures based on the plan and risk assessment.
  3. Communication plan: Develop and maintain a communication plan that complies with both Federal and State law. Patient care must be well-coordinated within the facility, across health care providers, and with State and local public health departments and emergency systems.
  4. Training and testing program: Develop and maintain training and testing programs, including initial and annual trainings, and conduct drills and exercises or participate in an actual incident that tests the plan.

The final rule also requires some facilities, including dialysis clinics, to track staff and patients during and after an emergency because they provide a continuum of care to their patients.

Related: Louisiana floods put preparedness to the test 

“Situations like the recent flooding in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, remind us that in the event of an emergency, the first priority of health care providers and suppliers is to protect the health and safety of their patients,” said CMS Deputy Administrator and Chief Medical Officer Patrick Conway, M.D., MSc. “Preparation, planning, and one comprehensive approach for emergency preparedness is key. One life lost is one too many.”

The regulations will become effective approximately two months. Health care providers affected by this rule must comply and implement all regulations one year after the effective date.