In the wake of the death of the patient with the first case of Ebola in the United States and the errors that led to his initial misdiagnosis, healthcare providers and other institutions plan to step up their safeguards against the virus.
Public health officials this week pledged to go further in screening airline passengers entering the country, according to the New York Times. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggested numerous ideas for screening measures, including taking the temperatures of at-risk passengers or questioning them in detail upon arrival. CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., told the Times the agency will announce new measures over the next few days.
Meanwhile, hospitals are looking at the mistakes Texas Health Presbyterian made in handling the Ebola patient as they review their own plans for a worst-case scenario, according to The Boston Globe.
"The news in Texas didn't change our planning, but it got our staff's attention," Paul Biddinger, M.D., vice chairman and medical director for preparedness at Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital, told the Globe. Similarly, although Tufts Medical Center has long-standing Ebola plans in place, the diagnosis has them double-checking their preparations, Shira Doron, an infectious diseases physician at the city hospital, told the Globe.
The patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, died in the hospital today, according to the Guardian, and was initially simply sent home with antibiotics. Such communication errors are all too common, according to Politico. Miscommunication can result from technological failures such as poorly-aligned electronic health record systems or simple failure to read other clinicians' notes.
"Almost all [medical] errors are related to communication," Tejal Gandhi, president of the National Patient Safety Foundation, told Politico. "This was true before electronic health records, and it's true now."
Some hospitals go even further, with public facilities in New York City sending actors feigning the virus' symptoms to emergency rooms to test their response, according to the Associated Press. Not every measure is this drastic, however; for example, at Coldwater, Ohio's Mercer County Community Hospital, notices posted at the entrances urge patients to notify staff immediately if they've recently traveled to an affected African country, according to the AP.