Managing Our Microbial Mark: Lessons We Can Learn About Pay for Performance From Ebola’s Arrival at Our Shores

Managing Our Microbial Mark: Lessons We Can Learn About Pay for Performance From Ebola's Arrival at Our Shores

 

It has been a privilege to join you here this past month. I close out my month as a guest with some thoughts from my current research on pay for performance, coming soon to my SSRN page.

If you've seen any of the data on the apparent ebbing of the Ebola virus outbreak in west Africa, you know that the news is good. The incidence of new reported cases is reduced and, unlike the low reported incidence from this past summer, public health officials seem to have more confidence in these reported numbers.

What is even more interesting is that is hard to say exactly what combination of domestic, international, and community efforts is bringing the number of new cases down but it has been observed that, in some places, habits and customs changed faster than in others.  Those able to improve health and sanitation as well as health and sanitation literacy faster were able to reduce incidence faster.

What can we, in the developed world, learn from all this? That hand washing matters in disease incidence and transfer? That communal pressure to improve things like hand hygiene can actually make a difference, even among the less aware and less motivated?  That Ebola needed to be brought out of the shadows before incidence and transfer could be fully addressed?

I have been thinking about what our brush with Ebola at our shores tells us about our health care system and our own capacity to learn these lessons from the developing world. 

Ebola’s presence, however limited, in American acute care facilities has brought to light the limitations of current infection control  procedures in American hospitals. Yet little has been done to extend lessons learned from Ebola transmission to non-Ebola infectious disease control. In this, we have more in common with west Africa than we may think, where focus on a single disease often disrupts health systems.Here, a focus on one disease allows us to focus on specialty care for that disease alone, without placing that disease’s spread in the larger context of infection control failures in America’s acute care facilities.

Persuaded, on some level, that the proliferation of hand sanitizer dispensers will immunize us, we alternately confront our own worst fears of a “super bug"  while managing to continue to participate in our communal lives, including the highly communal and congregate experiences of acute care hospitalization and nursing home residence much as we always have since the rise of these two peculiarly modern forms of health care institutions in the 20th century. And, yet, everything is changed.

X-posted at prawfsblawg.

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