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New Emergency Information Center Model Helps Public Health Agencies Meet Demand for Health Information

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Press Release Date: March 15, 2005

HHS' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) today released a new operations model for emergency call centers designed to help public health agencies and other first responders prepare to provide accurate, timely information during a health emergency. Originally developed to assist medical call centers, the model is designed to help public health departments, state and local officials and others gear up quickly to answer calls from the public and health care providers if an emergency arises.

The Rocky Mountain Regional Health Emergency Assistance Line and Triage Hub (HEALTH) model was developed by Denver Health, a partner in AHRQ's Integrated Delivery System Research Network. The model offers guidance to organizations on the requirements, specifications and resources needed to develop a public health emergency contact center that is highly integrated with public health agencies and that can reduce the likelihood of hospitals and health systems being overwhelmed with calls and requests for information. A goal of the model is to develop the capacity to handle 1,000 calls per hour from health care providers or members of the public in addition to delivering regular services.

Experience has shown that medical contact centers field an increased number of calls during a natural or man-made disaster. For example, following news reports of the release of anthrax spores in the U.S. Postal Service in Washington, D.C., in 2001, the Denver Health Medical Information Centers experienced a 10-percent increase in call volume from people concerned about anthrax—even though there were no actual cases in Colorado or surrounding states.

"In the face of a public health emergency, the public and health care providers want and need accurate, timely information," said AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D. "This new model will prove to be of real value to medical contact centers that want to gear up to meet information demands in natural or man-made public health emergencies."

The HEALTH model provides step-by-step guidance and a toolkit containing:

  • Contact Surge Calculator.
  • Staffing-Resource Calculator.
  • Capital Expense Calculator.
  • Technology Expense Calculator.
  • Surge Options Matrix.

The Rocky Mountain Regional HEALTH model report and tools can be found at http://www.ahrq.gov/research/health. Printed copies of the report are available by contacting AHRQ's Publication Clearinghouse at 1-800-358-9295 or by sending an E-mail to AHRQPubs@ahrq.hhs.gov.

AHRQ has funded more than 50 emergency preparedness-related studies, workshops, conferences, and other activities to help hospitals and health care systems prepare for medical emergencies. Information about these projects can be found at http://www.ahrq.gov/prep/.

For more information, please contact AHRQ Public Affairs: (301) 427-1271 or (301) 427-1865.


 

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