The threat of an H5N1 influenza virus (avian flu) pandemic is substantial. The success of the current U.S. influenza pandemic response plan depends on effective coordination among state and local public health authorities and individual health care providers. This article is a summary of a public policy paper developed by the American College of Physicians to address issues in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Pandemic Influenza Plan that involve physicians. The College's positions call for the following: 1) development of local public health task forces that include physicians representing all specialties and practice settings; 2) physician access to 2-way communication with public health authorities and to information technology tools for diagnosis and syndrome surveillance; 3) clear identification and authorization of agencies to process licensing and registration of volunteer physicians; 4) clear guidelines for overriding standard procedures for confidentiality and consent in the interest of the public's health; 5) clear and fair infection control measures that do not create barriers to care; 6) analysis of and solutions to current problems with seasonal influenza vaccination programs as a way of developing a maximally efficient pandemic flu vaccine program; 7) federal funding to provide pandemic flu vaccine for the entire U.S. population and antiviral drugs for 25% of the population; and 8) planning for health care in alternative, nonhospital settings to prevent a surge in demand for hospital care that exceeds supply.
*This paper is an abridged version of a full-text position paper (available at www.acponline.org/college/pressroom/as06/pandemic_policy.pdf) written by Laura Barnitz, BJ, MA, and updated and adapted for publication in Annals of Internal Medicine by Michael Berkwits, MD, MSCE. The original position paper was developed for the Health and Public Policy Committee of the American College of Physicians: Jeffrey P. Harris, MD (Chair); David L. Bronson, MD (Vice Chair); CPT Julie Ake, MD; Patricia P. Barry, MD; Molly Cooke, MD; Herbert S. Diamond, MD; Joel S. Levine, MD; Mark E. Mayer, MD; Thomas McGinn, MD; Robert M. McLean, MD; Ashley E. Starkweather; and Frederick E. Turton, MD. It was approved by the Board of Regents on 3 April 2006.