Thomas Eric Duncan died yesterday from Ebola and I would like to express my deepest sympathy to his family and loved ones. I also feel for the 48 people being monitored for symptoms after their possible exposure. In view of the high mortality of Ebola, his death may not have been preventable, but U.S. healthcare showed a poor face for its first Ebola diagnosis on American soil.
All Certified Legal Nurse Consultants and all nurses working in hospital jobs know that a patient’s history is 95% of the diagnosis. In Duncan’s case, the Emergency Department (ED) nurse entered the patient’s travel history into the electronic medical record (EMR) but may not have verbally notified the ED team. The ED physicians, as physicians are prone to do, apparently did not review the patient’s travel history entry. We all know what happened next – the patient was sent home and 48 people are now under observation for Ebola symptoms.
The EMR can automatically generate alerts to help avoid situations just like this. Given the dangers of undiagnosed Ebola I propose that all healthcare facilities mandate EMR alerts for suspicious Ebola travel histories. In view of the lethal implications, these EMR alerts should unequivocally be the standard of care.
Once EMR alerts are instituted, the next concern will be ensuring that ALL healthcare providers (physicians included) heed the alerts.
I’m Just Sayin’
P.S. Comment and share your opinion regarding whether EMR alerts should be mandated for patients with a positive Ebola travel history.