Using Timely Survey-Based Information Networks to Collect Data on Best Practices for Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response

Illustrative Case from the American College of Emergency Physicians' Ebola Surveys

Published in: Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, 2016

Posted on RAND.org on July 01, 2016

by Mahshid Abir, Melinda Moore, Margaret Chamberlin, Kristi L. Koenig, Jon Mark Hirshon, Cynthia Singh, Sandra Schneider, Stephen Cantrill

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Research Question

  1. Can professional organizations use real-time member surveys to gather information about public health emergency preparedness and response?

Objective

Using the example of surveys conducted by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) regarding the management of Ebola cases in the United States, we aimed to demonstrate how survey-based information networks can provide timely data to inform best practices in responding to public health emergencies.

Methods

ACEP conducted 3 surveys among its members in October to November 2014 to assess the state of Ebola preparedness in emergency departments. We analyzed the surveys to illustrate the types of information that can be gleaned from such surveys. We analyzed qualitative data through theme extraction and collected quantitative results through cross-tabulations and logistic regression examining associations between outcomes and potential contributing factors.

Results

In the first survey, most respondents perceived their hospital as being reasonably prepared for Ebola. The second survey revealed significant associations between a hospital's preparedness and its perceived ability to admit Ebola patients. The third survey identified 3 hospital characteristics that were significantly and independently associated with perceived ability to admit Ebola patients: large size, previous Ebola screening experience, and physician- and nurse-led hospital preparedness.

Conclusion

Professional associations can use their member networks to collect timely survey data to inform best practices during and immediately after public health emergencies. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2016; page 1 of 10)

Key Findings

  • Shortly after the first cases of Ebola in the United States in 2014, the American College of Emergency Physicians surveyed their members three times to collect information about hospital preparedness to handle Ebola cases.
  • Analysis of survey results provided information about hospitals' Ebola preparedness and identified characteristics of hospitals that the emergency physicians considered were more likely to be able to admit an Ebola patient.
  • Surveys conducted by relevant professional organizations as public health emergencies unfold can inform local, state, and national emergency management and facilitate sharing of best practice.

Recommendation

Other professional associations should consider conducting member surveys to assess readiness, response, and best practices.

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