Zika: Five Strategies For Health Systems

October 13, 2016

This article originally appeared at http://www.beckershospitalreview.com/quality/zika-five-strategies-for-health-systems.html on Oct. 12, 2016.

With more than 3,800 cases of Zika being reported from all 50 of the states and 105 linked to local transmission in Florida, it's difficult to ignore the concern of patients about the Zika virus.

This emerging public health issue creates an imperative for health systems to have proper infrastructure and procedures in place.

A recent Premier Inc. survey of C-suite health system leaders provides a snapshot of how health systems are proactively investing in patient education, screening and reporting tools, as well as implementing best practices to help deliver high-quality care based on the unique needs of the patient population they serve.

Below are five strategies health system leaders are taking to ensure practitioners have the right tools and resources to effectively prevent, screen, treat and report Zika cases.

1) Patient education: Creating awareness and communicating the potential risks of Zika transmission to patients is a simple, inexpensive intervention that can make a difference. Nearly 80 percent of respondents have begun plans to provide advice and guidance to women of childbearing age about potential risks associated with travel to areas with ongoing Zika transmission.

2) Screening at-risk individuals: With Zika cases being reported in every state, health systems understand that cases will continue to rise, and are making an effort to plan and prepare for this growing public health issue. Molecular testing of blood or urine specimens can confirm Zika infection. More than half of respondents have begun the planning process of implementing Zika screening and testing in pregnant women.

3) Surveillance and reporting: Implementing the right tools to identify cases and follow-up with the public health officials is crucial when looking to prevent the spread of emerging viruses and infections. Nearly 74 percent of respondents have begun to establish processes to screen, monitor, and report Zika cases to public health departments. And nearly 40 percent report they have electronic surveillance and tracking systems that are or are near full implementation. These systems can help providers track infectious disease outbreaks in real-time and streamline the reporting process to promptly alert local, state and federal officials.

4) Clinical care: Zika has created unforeseen circumstances in patient care, but providers are rising to the challenge and creating new protocols to ensure patients affected by Zika get the best care possible. More than half of respondents are developing follow-up care protocols for pregnant women diagnosed with Zika and 76 percent have begun initial efforts to educate clinical staff about precautions to take when caring for mothers with Zika during labor and delivery.

5) Creating accountability: Establishing staff assignments to oversee Zika preparation efforts is important to ensure collaboration across departments and that best practices are being implemented effectively. Fifty percent of survey respondents say they have begun to assign responsibilities or have already created staff leads to coordinate Zika preparation.

While every health system has distinct challenges, Premier's survey demonstrates that clinical leaders are taking this opportunity to incorporate key recommendations on Zika prevention, diagnosis and care delivery established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the situation evolves. For more information on Zika preparedness, visit the Premier Safety Institute.

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