The U.S. healthcare system badly fumbled its first unexpected encounter with the deadly Ebola virus. One misdiagnosed patient is dead, two nurses who treated him are sick, and hundreds of people may have been exposed to the virus. Panic is spreading.
The first job for healthcare leaders now is to draw the appropriate lessons from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas' multiple failures. They must develop an effective set of best practices on how to manage patients with highly infectious deadly diseases. And they must rapidly execute the mammoth task of ensuring that the nation's frontline hospital and clinic workers are properly trained in how to follow those protocols.
In a world where new infectious disease threats are constantly emerging, this isn't only about Ebola. Frontline healthcare workers need constant practice in how to identify and respond to people who present during outbreaks with symptoms of disease, whether in emergency rooms, physician offices or clinics. They need to remain vigilant about identifying people whose travel history and exposures identify them as risks for spreading disease.