The CDC describes an epidemic as the increase in the number of cases of a disease surpassing what would typically be expected for the population of that area. This increase is often sudden. Healthcare settings, critical components of the healthcare system, play vital roles in the prevention of epidemics, including the preparation for and management of these situations. Healthcare settings are places where healthcare occurs, it goes beyond hospitals and doctors’ offices, it includes urgent care centers, rehab facilities, nursing homes and long-term care facilities, as well as outpatient care facilities and others. Such places are expected to have a plan in place to respond to the outbreak of an epidemic.

Healthcare workers need to be trained and fully aware of their roles for preparing and responding to epidemics, and these healthcare settings need to have the appropriate resources necessary for treatment and quarantine events. Conversely, healthcare settings can actually amplify the spread of epidemics due to inadequate measures being taken to control the disease or simply due to the rapid evolution of these complex situations.

For these reasons, some healthcare settings across the country are turning to tele-medicine to assist in safely screening and treating patients who may have contracted the disease in question. The goal here being to provide remote services to help contain the spread of these illnesses. During epidemics tele-medicine companies see an increase in the number of calls from people seeking information and those worried about their symptoms. This type of medicine is not new, and many health insurances offer this option in addition to seeing a nurse or doctor in the traditional setting.

Unfortunately, many people do not go this route when looking for medical care and that can make controlling the spread more problematic because even asymptomatic individuals can pass along certain diseases. But even having people treat themselves at home does not stop the overwhelming demand for health care. During epidemics there is demand for hospital space and medications as well as trained health care professionals and these high-level demands can last weeks or even months.

Consequently, disease epidemics tend to lead to burnout epidemics that can affect both the providers and the patients because despite the preparation and management for these situations, epidemics are always overwhelming to the healthcare system. This burnout is caused by increased responsibility and the ever-changing care-delivery methods. Burnout is characterized by emotional exhaustion and depersonalization and can affect the quality of care and even outcomes of patients. All things considered, in the same way that health care settings prepare for epidemics, they also need to prepare for burnout epidemics when the health care system becomes overwhelmed by actively identifying the affected professionals and implementing solutions. 

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