Universal Precaution Mode – The New Normal?

universal_precaution_modeWe’ve been inundated with information about how an EHR might have failed for the Ebola crisis currently enveloping the nation. In my opinion, EHRs are only as good as the processes and procedures that they are meant to follow. All too often, we blame the technology,  rather than what was the process in place for this event and can we do something to correct it.

Then, we recently found out through an article recently from Healthcare IT News that National Coordinator for Health IT, Karen DeSalvo, MD, is moving into a new position within HHS where she has been drafted to focus on Ebola by Secretary Burwell to serve as Acting Assistant Secretary for Health. The changes within government I’m sure have the healthcare IT provider community concerned with the lack of stability in the National Coordinator position of late.

In being able to develop a plan for containing the spread of this infectious diseases, the ED has become the front line against this war on Ebola. What I have heard healthcare provider IT organizations are working on to prepare for Ebola is associated with screening patients or other individuals that they may have come into contact with who have traveled to one of the West African countries that have been heavily impacted by the Ebola virus.  If the travel screening questions are positive, the EHR triggers a series of BPAs (Best Practice Alerts) associated to symptoms/chief complaints.  If the travel screen and symptoms are met, this triggers a droplet isolation order when Infection Control takes over.

Bear in mind that based on a recent article at Healthcare IT News, 87 percent said their hospital has not provided education specific to Ebola, 33 percent noted insufficient supplies of personal protective equipment such as face shields, goggles, and fluid resistant gowns, nearly 40 percent do not have plans to equip isolation rooms with necessary plastic covered mattresses and pillows and more than 60 percent responded that their hospital lacks a plan for reducing the overall number of patients to make room a patient that needs to be isolated.

If US Healthcare provider organizations had implemented ICD-10 as scheduled, we would also be able to better identify the level of specificity of symptoms that infectious diseases such as Ebola display and would give us better information on the fight against this virus. This, unfortunately did not come to pass. The new normal though will get better. Our organizations have proved this to us with more and more organizations focused on achieving HIMSS Analytics Stage 7 like the 3 organizations we presented awards to on October 24th at the CSO HIMSS Fall Conference in Cincinnati. TriHealth, Mercy Health and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center all received awards for their commitment to the community. A wonderful thing for the community and further proof that provider organizations are focused on getting better, faster and more efficient. An inspirational way to end this post for sure.

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