October 20, 2014
Ohio Brings in a Call Center to Tackle Ongoing Ebola Threat
By Steve Anderson
Contributing TMCnet Writer
Call it by many names—a public health threat, an ongoing crisis, or the like—but the 2014 Ebola outbreak has been one of the largest such outbreaks in quite some time, reaching multiple continents and raising more than a few concerns in the process. That's prompted some groups to start stepping up educational efforts about the disease, and the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) finds itself no different in its own efforts, bringing out a 24-hour call center to help provide information and help during this affair.
The call center is just part of a wider effort, which includes a Joint Public Information Center (JIC) and improved protocols for local health departments that are responding to potential victims of this disease. The stepped-up campaign came after a report that a nurse from Dallas, who subsequently discovered that she'd been infected herself, spent some time in Ohio, possibly transmitting the virus within the state's confines. This led to a clear demand for information about the virus, its transmission capabilities, and what those who may have come in contact with the nurse or the virus could do in response.
The ODH, working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), developed the series of systems as a means to provide concerned citizens with necessary information. As the ODH's public information officer, Melanie Amato, describes it, citizens should be concerned, but should not panic, as the chances of getting Ebola in Ohio were described as “...very, very low” due to the comparative difficulty of transmission. Additionally, the ODH has conducted a contact tracing process, and is likely to have run down just who came in contact with the Ebola-infected nurse fairly soon, which would be expressed by contact from the ODH itself.
While some regard the chances of getting Ebola as somewhat higher than the ODH would suggest thanks to things like aerosol transmission and Ebola's level of survivability on surfaces, it's clear that Ohio's doing what it can to help keep the state running as smoothly as possible while still providing information for concerned citizens, as expressed by Amato, who pointed out that the state believes it has “...a very good effort...” in place, ready to not only find but also treat Ebola cases.
Whether or not that turns out to be the case, of course, only time will tell. But given how slowly it appears to be moving in the United States—so far a bare handful of even possible cases have appeared—it may well be that Ohio's plan is the best for the time being. Set up the infrastructure by which contacts can be made, then allow said contacts to be made as needed while proceeding as required by the nature of the information brought in. It's almost like a spare tire, in a greater sense; the ability to make contact and pass on information is there, and if it's not actually used, then at least it was on hand.
Call it an insurance policy, call it good public policy, but at the end of the day, it's just a matter of getting information to the right place, one of the best functions a call center has. Whether it's information about Ebola, or just what a business has for sale, that call center can get the information where it needs to be and doing the job it needs to do, and in the end, that provides customer service, where here the customers are the citizens of Ohio.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi