In the past few weeks, in addition to the spike in COVID cases and the prevalence of the Delta variant, there have been two additional hot topics that have been the base of a lot of discussions from our clients – OSHA’s COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) and ONC’s Cures Act Final Rule related to information blocking.
First, let’s talk about the requirements for OSHA’s COVID-19 ETS. With the rise in COVID cases, employers have a responsibility to protect their employees. While President Biden issued the Executive Order directing the Department of Labor to consider issuing an ETS, there were numerous delays. The final ETS was filed in the Office of Federal Register on June 17, 2021 and it became effective when it was published on June 21, 2021. OSHA consults with the CDC monthly to see if any of the requirements should change and so far there has been no change.
The ETS outlines what healthcare employers, if not excluded, must do to protect workers from COVID-19. To learn if the ETS is applicable to your practice as there are exceptions, visit this link for OSHA’s Applicability Flowchart. If you are included in the guidance, you should have the following requirements in place immediately:
- Develop and implement a COVID-19 plan that includes a designated safety coordinator with authority to ensure compliance
- Patient screening and management
- Standard and transmission-based precautions
- Vaccination – provide time off for vaccination and vaccination recovery if needed
- Training on COVID-19 procedures
- Anti-retaliation policies against employees who contract COVID
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) requirements
- Aerosol-generating procedures on a person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19
- Physical distancing and physical barriers
- Cleaning and disinfection process and policies
- Ventilation – provide airborne transmission isolation rooms
- Health screening and medical management
- Recordkeeping: establish a COVID-19 log
- Report work-related COVID-19 fatalities and in-patient hospitalizations to OSHA
- Requirements must be implemented at no cost to employees
For more detail on the above requirements, see the Fact Sheet here.
The other hot topic that is top of mind for our clients is information blocking. Information blocking was included in the 21st Century Cures Act of 2016. It is defined as an action by a healthcare provider, health IT developer of certified health IT, health information network (HIN), or health information exchange (HIE) that, except as required by law or specified by HHS as a reasonable and necessary activity, is likely to interfere with access, exchange or use of electronic health information (EHI). To find out what this means for you as a clinician, click here.
There are a few key dates to be mindful of. The applicability date was April 5, 2021. Before October 6, 2022, electronic health information (EHI) for the purposes of the information blocking definition is limited to the EHI identified by the data elements represented in the United States Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI) standard. FAQ’s are available at ONC’s Cures Act Interim Final Rule website, linked here.
If you aren’t sure if you are in compliance with either of these requirements or have questions, please reach out to any of the Warren Averett team members.