Lessons from the domestic Ebola response: Improving health care system resilience to high consequence infectious diseases

Published:December 15, 2017DOI:


      • The domestic Ebola response yielded valuable lessons for infectious disease events.
      • Lessons may improve health care system resilience to infectious disease events.
      • Important interview themes include health care facility and workforce issues.
      • Researchers developed a checklist to improve health care system resilience.


      The domestic response to the West Africa Ebola virus disease (EVD) epidemic from 2014-2016 provides a unique opportunity to distill lessons learned about health sector planning and operations from those individuals directly involved. This research project aimed to identify and integrate these lessons into an actionable checklist that can improve health sector resilience to future high-consequence infectious disease (HCID) events.


      Interviews (N = 73) were completed with individuals involved in the domestic EVD response in 4 cities (Atlanta, Dallas, New York, and Omaha), and included individuals who worked in academia, emergency management, government, health care, law, media, and public health during the response. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed qualitatively. Two focus groups were then conducted to expand on themes identified in the interviews. Using these themes, an evidence-informed checklist was developed and vetted for completeness and feasibility by an expert advisory group.


      Salient themes identified included health care facility issues—specifically identifying assessment and treatment hospitals, isolation and treatment unit layout, waste management, community relations, patient identification, patient isolation, limitations on treatment, laboratories, and research considerations—and health care workforce issues—specifically psychosocial impact, unit staffing, staff training, and proper personal protective equipment.


      The experiences of those involved in the domestic Ebola response provide critical lessons that can help strengthen resilience of health care systems and improve future responses to HCID events.

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