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Patient Notification Toolkit

A Guide to Assist Health Departments and Healthcare Facilities with Conducting a Patient Notification Following Identification of an Infection Control Lapse or Disease Transmission

Introduction

Background

Unsafe injection practices and other lapses in basic infection control put patients at risk of infection. These incidents have occurred in a wide variety of healthcare settings (e.g., hospitals, outpatient clinics, assisted living facilities). When these practices or the resulting infections are discovered, a patient notification process typically ensues. This toolkit is intended to assist state and local health departments or healthcare facilities in conducting a patient notification.

Why a Toolkit?

Although the circumstances surrounding individual incidents may vary, the communication needs that follow are consistent and predictable. Additionally, incidents have the potential to be high profile and sensitive so it is critical to work quickly. This toolkit contains resources and templates to facilitate a swift and effective notification process.

Intended Users

The intended users of this toolkit include personnel at local and state health departments (including subject matter experts and public relations professionals) and healthcare facilities that conduct patient notifications for incidents caused by infection control breaches. Healthcare facilities should consult with their local/state health department any time a patient notification is planned or considered. While this toolkit is intended to be comprehensive, CDC subject matter experts and communication professionals are also available for consultation regarding notification events.

When to Use

This toolkit is intended to be used after a health department or healthcare facility decides to notify patients of their potential exposure to infectious organisms due to an unsafe practice or infection control breach. It offers resources and template materials to facilitate the notification process as well as some essential tips and strategies.

Note that this toolkit is not designed to assist with investigating a potential outbreak (see scope).

How to Use

This toolkit is composed of four sections, not all of which may be necessary for each patient notification. The first section provides sample materials to assist with creating notification letters and reviews risk communication principles. It also includes links to fact sheets with basic information on the diseases that can be transmitted by unsafe injection practices and other basic infection control lapses. The second section covers planning media and communication strategies. The third section describes how to establish communication resources to support patient notification, such as setting up a call center. The final section offers strategies for releasing patient notification letters and describes how to work with the media and partners.

Questions

Please note that this toolkit is a guide intended to assist with the process of developing communication materials that may be needed during the patient notification process. Please contact CDC at hip@cdc.gov for additional questions and concerns regarding the notification process.

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