Reported cases of infectious diseases ranging from measles to Ebola are on the rise in the United States, and medical practices must follow established protocols when handling cases and suspected cases. In a recent video for Physicians Practice, Robin Diamond, senior vice president and chief patient safety officer for physician insurer The Doctors Company offered six steps offices should follow to reduce their liability related to such illnesses:
- Document patient discussions regarding infectious diseases.
- Document discussions about serologic evaluations with patients unsure of their immunity status.
- Be sure your immunization tracking is up to date.
- Allow only staff who have been immunized to work with infectious patients.
- Notify individuals who had contact with infected individuals to see a physician.
- Train staff in the use of personal protective equipment (including gowns, goggles/face shields, facemasks and gloves) and proper isolation techniques.
In addition, healthcare providers caring for infected patients must be diligent about using appropriate infection control measures such as disinfecting surfaces and frequent hand-washing with soap and water, noted an article from FormularyWatch. Practices must also follow protocol for proper cleaning and disposal of instruments, needles and syringes. Sterilize any instruments used more than once.
Finally, practices should have plans in place for special administrative, environmental and communication measures before a potential case of Ebola or other serious infectious disease occurs. For instance, instruct office staff on how to handle phone calls and inquiries regarding potential cases and provide patients with accurate public health information, such as from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and updates or instructions from the office.