Bad Bugs: Managing Enterprise Risks Surrounding Pandemic Infections

November 1, 2017 | Strategic Insights for Health System


​A panel of four experts discussed the high-stakes risks associated with pandemic infections on October 17, 2017, at the American Society for Healthcare Risk Management (ASHRM) conference in Seattle, Washington. In referencing the 2014 Ebola outbreak, Mary Anne Hilliard, Esq, BSN, Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer at Children's National Health System in Washington, D.C., stated, "This is going to happen again." Roberta DeBiasi, MD, MS, Chief, Division of Pediatric Diseases, Children's National Health System described how pandemic spread of infectious disease is a low-frequency event with high impact on affected populations. DeBiasi contends that the real threat comes from "emerging diseases"—infectious diseases for which the population has no immunity and for which no medical treatment or vaccines exist. Emerging infectious diseases and pandemics fall into several categories including the following: emerging infectious diseases (e.g., Ebola, Zika); highly contagious respiratory viral diseases (e.g., pandemic influenza, middle eastern respiratory virus MERS, measles, enterovirus D68); agents of bioterrorism (e.g., anthrax, smallpox); and resurgence of known diseases, emergence of drug-resistant microorganisms, and mutation of pathogens. DeBiasi emphasized that potentially exposed patients will not necessarily be coming into the hospital through the emergency department (ED). Another panelist, Dominic Colaizzo, Chairman, National Health Care Practice, Aon Risk Solutions, commented that financial risks come with pandemic outbreaks. Colaizzo remarked that the market is limited for stand-alone business-interruption insurance coverage for medical contagions.

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