What the Ebola Virus and Sen. Barbara Boxer Can Teach Us About Health Care Systems

November 3, 2014 4:25 PM

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What the Ebola Virus and Sen. Barbara Boxer Can Teach Us About Health Care Systems

Medical errors are a paramount concern in health care, and often they are a byproduct of ineffective processes and systems within hospitals, operating rooms, and clinics. The recent Ebola case in Dallas is a stark reminder of that fact. On October 8 at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, Thomas Eric Duncan became the first person in the U.S. to die from the Ebola virus. Despite informing an Emergency Room (ER) nurse that he had recently traveled from Liberia, Mr. Duncan was sent home with a presumed viral illness after his initial presentation to Texas Presbyterian. The attending ER physician never became aware of this recent travel, for his workflow in the electronic health record (EHR) was separate from that of the nurse.

Texas Presbyterian released a statement on October 2, acknowledging there was a miscommunication between the physician and nurse due in part to the design of the EHR. Since then, two nurses involved in Mr. Duncan's care contracted (and have recovered from) the Ebola virus themselves, and outlets lik...

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