Mary Wei, associate director, State Relations
When the nationwide COVID-19 emergency was declared, states across the country scrambled to determine the impact the coronavirus would have related to their respective populations. Moving to an emergency response meant our State Relations Department’s normal activity and work across the states would need to shift to a mode of learning and supporting, and in this way, continue to be advocates for our many accredited ambulatory care customers.
Joint Commission Surveys Suspended
Based on what we were seeing across the country, we started by reaching out to our state agency partners to let them know that The Joint Commission determined routine survey activity would be suspended at least through May. As we learned more about the impact the COVID-19 pandemic was having, we shifted to compiling and sending the state agencies updated resources reflecting current emergency and crisis-response needs through our dedicated COVID resources site.
We quickly learned the pandemic was impacting ambulatory health care providers differently across the country. While most elective surgeries were postponed depending on specific areas of the country and the procedures provided, urgent elective surgical care may have continued for some providers, while others may have worked with hospitals in their community to address surge needs, and still others participated by sharing personal protective equipment and ventilator equipment.
Timely Teamwork Makes a Difference
As we navigated through the varied state guidance related to ambulatory care, we realized the best way to provide support and align our COVID-19 response centered around communicating federal and state resources or state-specific information to our accredited customers. We strove to connect state regulatory agencies with our accredited organizations. When we created workarounds to our normal processes, we made sure to inform and gather feedback from all state stakeholders.
A shining example of cooperation with our state agency partners occurred in New York. One of our accredited office-based surgery (OBS) customers was eager to share his unused ventilator with a needy hospital, as the pandemic was surging in New York City. Unfortunately, he couldn’t make a connection with the appropriate hospital authority. The OBS customer reached out to our Ambulatory Care Business Development team which in turn connected him with the State Relations Team. We were able to quickly link the OBS customer with exactly the right resource at the New York Department of Health. Success!
Addressing the New Normal
Over the next few weeks and months, as the states transition back to more normal activities, our State Relations team is also working on transitioning to a new normal. Part of that work is to monitor how the shifts and emergent decisions made at the state level might continue moving forward or be modified. The practices we employed at the height of the pandemic, specifically open communication, prompt cooperation and practical support, will become part of our normal processes as we shift into non-COVID related activities.
State Relations will continue to support the ambulatory care program and identify ways to provide value to state regulatory agencies beyond the basics of accreditation standards and survey processes.
Mary Wei is an associate director in the State Relations Department at The Joint Commission. State Relations identifies opportunities for accreditation to be recognized by state health departments, allowing ambulatory care organizations to reap the full value and benefit of their accreditation