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It’s official! The Joint Commission announced this week they will resume regular surveys in June.

As we know, TJC suspended regular survey activity on March 16th due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since that time, they have not been conducting routine triennial surveys.

Virtual Joint Commission Surveys

TJC has been doing some virtual surveys for organizations seeking initial deemed status from CMS. Feedback is that this virtual survey process has been quite effective. Indeed, the average number of Requirements for Improvement has been almost equivalent to onsite surveys.

Joint Commission Surveys: Recovery Plan

TJC will resume routine surveys the first week of June in all accreditation programs. they plan to schedule surveys in counties considered low risk for COVID-19 based on the database TJC is using.

Joint Commission account executives will contact organizations to assess the impact of COVID-19 on their organization and their readiness for survey. This call will take place before any survey is scheduled.

A top priority will be organizations past due for their triennial surveys.  Furthermore, TJC has confirmed that accreditation will be automatically extended until TJC schedules the next survey. Thus, accreditation will not lapse for any of these “overdue” organizations.

Another priority will be deemed status organizations that had a Condition Level deficiency on their last survey. In these instances, CMS requires TJC to conduct a follow-up Medicare Deficiency Survey within 45 days. So, TJC will begin to catch up on these surveys starting in June.

Survey Process Changes

So, as TJC resumes regular surveys, will the survey process be different? Clearly, social distancing will need to be in place.

Accordingly, there will be changes to some survey activities. First, TJC will limit the number of in-person attendees in group sessions (such as the Data Management System Tracer.) Organizations can use audio or video conferencing to add attendees to these sessions.

Next, they will minimize the number of staff who accompany surveyors on tracers. So, there will be less eyes and ears present during tracers. As a result, organizations need to think hard about whom they assign as escorts – and exactly what their duties are.

In addition, TJC is encouraging the use of technology for electronic medical record reviews. This eliminates the need for people to sit closely together while reviewing a record. Screen sharing or projecting the EMR on a large screen are effective ways to tackle this one.

Lastly, Joint Commission surveyors will drive separately from organizational staff when traveling to offsite locations.

The “New Normal” for Joint Commission Surveys

Clearly, technology will play an ever more important role in surveys. That includes the use of electronic medical records and audio/video conferencing. Gone will be those crowded meetings with shoulder to shoulder contact.

TJC has confirmed that triennial surveys will continue to be conducted onsite; not virtually. However, they do plan to incorporate a virtual component. Specifically, this would involve the Document Review session.

TJC would request organizations to upload the required documents to a shared location. Surveyors would then review the documents before coming onsite. Reportedly, this has worked well on the virtual surveys TJC has conducted.

Retooling your Continuous Readiness

As TJC resumes regular surveys, continuous readiness will be critical. Be assured that our Mock Surveys and Continuous Readiness Consultations can help you get back up to speed and prepare for that next survey – whenever it occurs.

Also, be sure to check out the COVID-19 resources on the TJC website. There’s a wealth of information there for you as you continue to grapple with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.