Communication Efforts Among Local Health Departments and Health Care Professionals During the 2009 H1N1 Outbreak

A study evaluating communication between local health departments (LHDs) and health care professionals in Kentucky during the outbreak of influenza H1N1 found that communication between LHDs and physicians and pharmacists was inadequate.

The authors conducted a cross-sectional survey of health department directors, physicians and pharmacists, asking about the communication patterns and information disseminated and received between April to July 2009.

Key Findings:

  • Ninety-five percent of responding local health departments (LHDs) said that their communication with health care professionals was aimed at risk reduction.
  • LHDs reported most frequently corresponding with physicians via fax and e-mail, and 81 percent of them rated their information dissemination capacity as very good or excellent.
  • Only 52 percent of physicians and 16 percent of pharmacists reported receiving information from an LHD, however, and 74 percent of pharmacists had never heard of their LHD’s influenza outbreak emergency plan.

The discrepancy between LHD and health care professional reports about information dissemination and receipt could result from health department overestimation of their information dissemination activity, or health care professionals perceiving information dissemination differently than health departments.

The authors recommend additional research on better ways for public health and health care systems to communicate, and suggest that the development of partnerships among physicians, pharmacists and LHDs may improve communication among them.