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5 things behavioral health pros need to know about Ebola

November 20, 2014
by Ann Whitehead
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Ann Whitehead

As the initial panic around Ebola declines, we have time to reflect on what changes should be made to the care provided in the physician office setting, clinic or urgent care.  With the flu season poking its head around the corner many physicians and office staff ponder the need for additional vigilance in their daily practice. 

We are told that Ebola is only transmitted through blood, body fluids and contaminated objects.  The authorities opine that staff can manage these patients through appropriate screening of febrile patients and by observing recommended isolation and infection control procedures.  However, physicians and staff express fear and doubt about what to do.   

Here is what healthcare professionals and behavioral health specialists should know about Ebola.

1. Be Vigilant, Educate & Prepare

Educate staff on the signs and symptoms, the protocol for screening patients, isolation precautions, mandatory use of personal protective equipment, and the importance of notification to the physician of high-risk patients. 

2. Screen & Evaluate

All febrile patients should be asked about recent travel history.  Post notices, if appropriate, at the entrance to the clinic or office and near check-in informing patients of the Ebola outbreak.

3. Isolate

Patients who screen positive for symptoms should immediately place any suspected Ebola patient in a private room with the door closed, or if home or in a residence, instructed to remain there until proper notifications and treatment options can be developed. 

4. Report & Coordinate

Outpatient physicians should report suspected Ebola cases to their local public health department or state agency.

5. Know the Resources

The American Medical Association, Joint Commission and the CDC have up to date Ebola information and resources.  Because Ebola is an evolving disease in America, information is constantly being updated. 

Here are several websites: 

·         American Medical Association Ebola Resource Center (http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/physician-resources/public-health/ebola-resource-center.page)

·         The Joint Commission (http://www.jointcommission.org/topics/ebola_preparedness_resources.aspx)

·         CDC (http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/index.html)

Ann Whitehead, RN, JD, vice president, Risk Management & Patient Safety at The Cooperative of American Physicians (CAP) leads a team of more than a dozen Risk Management and Patient Safety specialists whose combined backgrounds encompass a cross-section of the healthcare and legal professions.