Study Examines VA Communication and Information Sharing During H1N1 Influenza Pandemic
The first case of novel H1N1 influenza was detected in April 2009 in California. Two months later, cases had been reported in all 50 states and 70 countries worldwide, leading the World Health Organization to declare a global pandemic. Information about the pandemic then had to be communicated to the media, general public, and healthcare workers. Effective communication is critical to formulating responses to emergent events in healthcare settings. However, the range of factors that influenced communication in healthcare settings during the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic has received limited attention. This study assessed information sources and communication provided to VA facility infection control departments, and how these departments disseminated information to facility staff during the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic. Investigators conducted semi-structured telephone interviews with 33 infection control key informants, each representing a VA healthcare facility. Facilities were chosen to maximize variation in terms of geographic locations, settings (urban vs. rural), and facility complexity levels (e.g., patient volume, types of services).
- Communication was facilitated when information was timely, organized, disseminated through multiple channels, and included educational materials.
- Barriers to effective communication included feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information received, encountering contradictory information, and restrictions on information dissemination due to uncertainty and inconsistent information.
- Participants offered recommendations for future pandemics, including the need for:
- Standardized educational content,
- Clearer guidance from national organizations, and
- Pre-defined communication plans for hospital staff.
- The authors suggest that these findings can be used in planning for future pandemics and other emergent situations.
- Findings from this study may not be representative of the experiences of infection control personnel in general.
This study was funded through VA/HSR&D's Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (QUERI; RRP 10-046). All authors are part of HSR&D's Center for Management of Complex Chronic Care, Hines, IL. Drs. Weaver, LaVela, and Hogan are part of the Spinal Cord Injury QUERI.
Locatelli SM, LaVela SL, Hogan T, Kerr A, and Weaver FM. Communication and Information Sharing at VA Facilities during the 2009 Novel H1N1 Influenza Pandemic. American Journal of Infection Control 2012 Sep;40(7):622-6. Epub 2012 Jun 23.