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National Ebola Team Assesses CS Responders

A mock patient uses a new video chat robot during a drill.

Representatives from the National Ebola Training and Education Center, who have firsthand experience treating the deadly disease, recently made their first visit to Cedars-Sinai to review and help strengthen the medical center’s practices in the event of an outbreak.

The visiting team of doctors and nurses shadowed the Cedars-Sinai Special Pathogen Response Team in a drill designed to enhance preparedness for treating patients with highly infectious diseases. Doctors and nurses from Emory University, the University of Nebraska Medical Center/Nebraska Medicine and Bellevue Hospital shared their experience combating the disease.

"The level of detail we got from their feedback was extremely valuable," said Jonathan Grein, MD, medical director of the Department of Hospital Epidemiology and infection control officer. "It was a true test in assessing where our plans have taken us and was very validating in many ways."

The assessments, which are to be performed annually, will help Cedars-Sinai function more effectively as one of 10 regional treatment centers for Ebola and other highly communicable diseases. Members of the visiting team praised Cedars-Sinai’s performance and said they would take some of the medical center’s practices back to their institutions.

Last summer, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services tapped the hospital to become part of the national network, serving patients from California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii and U.S. territories in the Pacific. As a treatment center, Cedars-Sinai plays a critical role in bolstering the nation's front-line defense against highly infectious diseases.

After the three-hour drill on May 22, the visitors offered advice on how to minimize the risk of spreading highly infectious diseases and to make the volunteer team more efficient. For example, they suggested the team use hand sanitizer more often and limit the use of sanitizing wipes in patients’ rooms to reduce trash and to prevent further contamination.

The drill provided the Cedars-Sinai team the opportunity to improve its communication techniques with patients, who are isolated because of their contagious infections from their loved ones. Meghan Madhusudhan, lead data analyst in Epidemiology, played a mock patient’s wife and tested a new video chat robot. The device enabled her to see and talk to the patient from a laptop.

"I had a 360-degree view from his perspective of what he was seeing," Madhusudhan said. "It was reassuring to talk to him versus getting a message from a stranger."

The robot device also made it possible for Grein to conduct a remote examination, using a Bluetooth-enabled stethoscope to listen to a patient’s lungs and heartbeat.

The visitors complimented the team of volunteer lab technicians, doctors, nurses and waste transporters on their collaboration and improvisation. In one instance, the group successfully managed a fake urine spill — a maneuver crucial to keeping a deadly virus from spreading — even though some members were confronted with the scenario for the first time.

"We were not only making sure the patient was safe, but making sure each other was safe," said critical care nurse Phaedra Harris, who was working at the bedside. "The teamwork was amazing."