Mobilizing a Statewide Network to Provide Ebola Education and Support

Telemed J E Health. 2016 Feb;22(2):153-158. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2015.0011. Epub 2015 Sep 14.


Background: Healthcare providers require the latest information and procedures when a public health emergency arises. During the fall of 2014, when the Ebola virus was first identified in a patient in the United States, education about Ebola virus disease (EVD) and procedures for its identification and control needed widespread and immediate dissemination to healthcare providers. In addition, there was a need to allay fears and reassure the public and providers that a process was in place to manage Ebola should it arrive in Arkansas. The state health department engaged multiple interest groups and provided a variety of educational and management activities. The Arkansas Department of Health and the only academic medical center in the state began offering time-consuming, one-on-one education over the phone, which reached too few providers. A solution was needed to educate many providers across the state in the protocols for identification, isolation, and management of patients with EVD. In response, the Arkansas Department of Health and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences leveraged the interactive video and Webinar capabilities of the state's telemedicine network to educate both providers and the public of this public health emergency.

Materials and methods: Six interactive video events were staged over 5 days in October 2014.

Results: In six events, 82 individual healthcare facilities (67 of which were hospitals) and 378 providers attended via the Webinar option, whereas 323 healthcare professionals received continuing education credits.

Conclusions: A statewide videoconferencing infrastructure can be successfully mobilized to provide timely public health education and communication to healthcare providers and the public in multiple disciplines and practice settings.

Keywords: disaster medicine; distance learning; education; telehealth.