By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) has released a five-point strategic plan to help emergency medicine providers, public health workers, and government officials stem the tide of the rapidly moving COVID-19.

Adapted from federal plans for handling biologic threats, the ACEP plan is built on situational awareness; protection of the emergency department (ED) infrastructure and personnel; prevention of disruptions in service delivery; organized, timely surge medical response; and recovery to the previous steady state. With facility and personal protection checklists, this logistics template is designed to assist leaders trying to guide everyone through a constantly evolving situation.

“As care teams work to protect patients in each of our communities, it is critical that hospitals define roles and determine the level of resources they need to be successful,” ACEP President William Jaquis, MD, FACEP, said in a statement. “Our healthcare system is likely to be strained as we seek to mitigate the impact of the virus, which is why careful planning and preparation is vital. As anticipation grows for more community transmission of COVID-19, we have to ensure our healthcare system is coordinated and has the capabilities necessary to respond rapidly and effectively.”

ACEP also sent lawmakers a list of desired policy changes that could help emergency providers handle the COVID-19 crisis. The recommendations revolve around proper care for the infected, widespread testing and cost-sharing for such tests, and maintaining a robust supply chain.

The CDC confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in the United States on Jan. 21. Since then, the novel coronavirus has spread to almost every state and caused three dozen deaths. The spike in reported cases this week led many people to socially distance, essentially pressing the pause button on most aspects of American life.

Emergency providers already were overwhelmed with an aggressive flu season and continuing cases of vaping-related lung injuries, as reported in the upcoming April issue of ED Management (EDM). Coincidentally, there can be similarities in symptoms of COVID-19, influenza, and vaping-related lung injuries, which can lead to diagnostic challenges. The April issue of EDM includes tips for stretched-thin frontline providers to help them diagnose each condition and treat patients appropriately.

Overwhelmed EDs are facing unprecedented challenges, some of which could lead to legal exposure. The upcoming May issue of ED Legal Letter will explore the legal risks to both ED providers and facilities. What kind of allegations are most likely to come up? That patients were not properly isolated? That care was delayed? That ED staff were not properly trained? That the hospital failed to staff appropriately? Further, what allegations could COVID-19 patients or their families make, and what would the defense be? And what about ED providers who later allege the hospital did not sufficiently protect them? What are some scenarios that could result in litigation by ED staff against the hospital? Be sure to read the issue to learn more. For more COVID-19 coverage, be sure to read recent issues of Hospital Employee Health, Hospital Infection Control & Prevention, Hospital Access Management, Same-Day Surgery, and the HICprevent blog.