As of July 2015 there have been more than 11,268 deaths from the 2014 Ebola Outbreak. While we are in better shape than we were in the past with regards to containing and controlling the outbreak, with a recent case of Ebola taking the life of a man in Liberia – a country believed to be virus-free – we are by no means out of the woods yet.
One of the most challenging aspects of Ebola or hemorrhagic fever is the risk of transmission to healthcare providers. Approximately 5-10% of the deaths from Ebola have been healthcare providers that caught the virus from treating patients. This is of grave concern because of a shortage of healthcare professionals willing to risk their lives to treat Ebola patients. In order to prevent catching the virus from body fluids of infected patients, stringent Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is required. This is where telemedicine can help.
A study showed that a Remote Video Auditing telemedicine program can be useful in assessing performance and training in appropriate PPE usage. Ensuring that providers are protected from transmission in regards to PPE is an important step in the process, but another solution is providing diagnosis and treatment from a distance without ever coming in direct contact with infected individuals. Using technology initially intended for infectious disease specialists and physicians to remotely monitor testing done in outer space, this program was applied to the treatment of Ebola patients – allowing for real time monitoring of temperature, pulse, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation without health care providers ever having to make contact with infected individuals.
When facing difficult problems like protecting scarce healthcare professionals in an Ebola epidemic, finding innovative solutions is absolutely necessary. Whether it is connecting healthcare workers with PPE auditors to ensure safety, decreasing the amount of direct contact while increasing abilities to diagnose a treat, connecting leaders with epidemiologists to prevent further breakouts, or consulting infectious disease specialists and other physicians, telemedicine brings numerous possibilities to help address the Ebola Epidemic and future outbreaks that may occur.