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After Infections, Hope for Exeter Hospital

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, August 8, 2012

Explain why the incident will not happen again

Part of this transparency effort must include demonstrating to the public that your organization is taking steps to ensure this situation will not happen again.

At Forbes and West Penn Allegheny, that meant not only updating the cleaning procedure for the new scopes, but revising the entire process for how they purchase medical equipment—and letting the public know about it.

Exeter's task is loftier, but not impossible. It must put measures in place to better guard medications, investigate staff allegations against coworkers, and vet its potential employees. The clinical response team section of its Hep C outbreak microsite is a great start, but the organization needs to go further.

Highlight your strengths and move forward

Forbes and West Penn Allegheny were ultimately able to move forward from their public health scare by publicizing its strengths and successes. The health system was recently named one of the country's top performing health-care systems based on patient care quality and efficiency for the third year and U.S. News & World Report also recognized four of its hospitals.

Forbes was singled out as being "high performing" in gastroenterology and other medical specialties.

Once the dust settles at Exeter, it must follow Forbes' public health crisis management approach to truly right the ship and restore its public image. Above all, it must keep the conversation going. Farah and Rubino say it best: "Talking about any incident can be beneficial, just as keeping patients informed can never be wrong."

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