Ebola in Dallas

David L Meyers dm0015 at ICLOUD.COM
Sun Oct 5 22:31:57 UTC 2014

It appears that the cause of improving diagnosis in medicine was given an unfortunate boost in Dallas this week with the (mis)handling of the nation's first case of ebola both at the clinical and public health levels, that is already having risk management and public policy effects.  With respect to the actual care of the patient, who was not diagnosed until his second ED visit several days after his first one to the same ED, the full story remains to be elucidated, but we've witnessed the painful release of information followed by corrections and restatements that too often characterize events of this sort. 

Initially, a nurse seemed to be the culprit blamed for obtaining critical information about travel history from the Liberian patient recently arrived in Dallas from Lagos via Brussels and Washington and not passing it on the health care team or following the CDC guidelines for handling such patients, said to be in place at the hospital.  Next, blame focused on the failure of the EHR to properly communicate information between the nurse and subsequent providers including the treating physician. The latest information seems to be that the physician had the information and made a wrong decision regarding diagnosis, management and disposition; whether s/he acquired relevant history independently or from the EHR is not clear.  

More information and analysis is trickling in and it will be sometime before most of the facts are known, but it is clear there were human errors and system errors which contributed to the situation. This may wind up being the most studied case of diagnostic error to date with the greatest potential to alter how the public sees this problem.  I imagine the IOM committee now addressing this subject will have some very instructive material to work with.  Root cause analysis anyone?

Here's a chronicle of the events as pieced together by the Dallas Morning News.  Interesting reading.  http://www.dallasnews.com/news/metro/20141004-dallas-ebola-case-shows-even-sound-plans-can-fail-spectacularly.ece

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