​​​​​​Update Q&A

Lessons From Ebola

Internal audit can help health-care entities better prepare for future infectious disease outbreaks, says CHAN Healthcare Auditors Senior Vice President of Audit Annette Schandl.​

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​What risks do the recent Ebola incidents bring to light in health care?

The biggest risk to the health-care system is the overall lack of preparedness by hospitals and health-care providers. This includes a lack of communication with, and education of, their staff about Ebola; an inability to detect and recognize new cases; and a failure to isolate and prevent infectious diseases. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides guidance on handling patients with infectious diseases, but it is up to the hospitals and health-care providers to implement and enforce the processes.

What is internal audit’s role in addressing these risks?

To understand the extent of the risks, the internal auditor needs a thorough understanding of the CDC guidance. With that knowledge, the auditor should determine what processes currently are in place to guide the health-care workers on how to deal with infectious diseases. If the health-care facilities and providers do not have a comprehensive and effective preparedness plan in place, the auditor should inform executive management and the board. Once an infectious disease plan is implemented, the auditor should test the adequacy of the plan and confirm the existence of continuing education and the readiness of the entire health-care system.

What are some of the effects a perceived healthcare crisis can have on a business or, more specifically, a hospital?

A perceived healthcare crisis could have a negative effect on the hospital's reputation in the community if the hospital is not prepared to handle the crisis. Patients would look to other healthcare facilities for care, resulting in a loss of revenue. Another negative effect would be the potential increase in the overall risk universe because the hospital would have to spend more time and resources on the perceived crisis instead of mitigating other pertinent risks. Furthermore, the supplies and equipment necessary for dealing appropriately with a health crisis could increase the hospital's expenses.

What safety measures should hospitals put in place to stop the spread of infectious diseases?

Hospitals should follow the CDC's guidance regarding reducing and stopping the spread of infectious diseases. Also, hospitals should have policies and procedures in place and continuously train their staff. Furthermore, hospitals should require their staff, especially those working in a healthcare-provider setting, to get annual flu shots and stay current on vaccinations.

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