Ebola Prevention Measures Likely Will Have Long Term Benefits

October 26, 2014
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Ebola - extra safety measuresIn light of the recent Ebola panic that has been racing across the nation from Texas to Maine, hospitals nationwide are beginning to review or create protocols directly related to the diagnosis and treatment of Ebola.

Ebola - extra safety measuresIn light of the recent Ebola panic that has been racing across the nation from Texas to Maine, hospitals nationwide are beginning to review or create protocols directly related to the diagnosis and treatment of Ebola. The prevention of Ebola and its spread is contingent upon stringent infection control and isolation practices in hospitals, especially emergency rooms and urgent care centers. Because of this, hospitals are taking a closer look at how they deal with infectious disease cases – Ebola being foremost on everyone’s minds.

Even if there is not a widespread Ebola outbreak in the U.S., the beefing up of infection prevention measures and emergency response protocols will only serve as vital practice and planning for outbreaks that, while may not be Ebola, could have devastating consequences for communities.

Influenza, for example, while not regarded as seriously as Ebola, kills around 30,000 people each year. While Ebola and the Flu are kind of apples and oranges when it comes to viruses, cleanliness and response protocols are beneficial in regards to any infectious agent, regardless of transmission.

Healthcare organizations need a multidisciplinary approach to infection control, and quality and safety departments are often tasked with spearheading these efforts. Everything from coordination and scheduling of staff to EHR documentation and automated stop-gaps in EHR software that protects against missing or conflicting inputs.

The Joint Commission recently released new accreditation chapters for 2015 that are more focused than ever before on patient safety. In a press release from The Joint Commission, CMO Ana Pujols McKee said, “For the first time, The Joint Commission is providing a standards chapter on our website because this information is so important that we want everyone to have access to it. A solid foundation for patient safety is a safety culture. For leaders, our hope is they will study this chapter and use it as a tool to build or improve their safety culture program.”

This update combined with the buzz around Ebola means that in the next fiscal year, patient safety is likely to take center stage.

Another new addition for 2015, the implementation of ICD-10, will help prevent misdiagnosis of potentially infectious diseases, like Ebola. ICD-9, at present, doesn’t have a specific code for Ebola, but ICD-10 will. The ICD-9 code used at present is a non-specific code for viral infections, 078.89. In ICD-10, Ebola gets its very own – specific- code: A98.4

The implications for public health monitoring with ICD-10 are great. With its own code, morbidity reporting will be more specific than ever before and potential outbreaks will be able to be tracked far more accurately. The World Health Organization already uses ICD-10 codes for this purposes in the other developed nations that already use it.

In the U.S., since we are still using non-specific ICD-9 codes for Ebola, our ability to track a potential outbreak through EMRs is greatly reduced. That’s why it’s of the utmost importance that our infection prevention and defense is at its best in the months to come.

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