SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have already issued recommendations to U.S. hospitals that patients presenting with what appears to be Ebola should be placed in isolation to prevent the spread of the disease. Dallas health officials say the man who is the first confirmed case of the Ebola virus in the country had come into contact with more than a dozen people, including some school children, when he was experiencing symptoms. So far, none of them has shown signs of infection.
The male patient was evaluated and released from a Texas hospital and wasn’t treated until two days later when he was brought in by ambulance. “Unfortunately, symptoms in the early stages of the virus, when it is infectious, imitate a cold or the flu,” said GlobalMed CEO Joel E. Barthelemy. “So, in the worst scenario, if it begins to spread in our country, we may see people with Ebola, and those who think they have it, overwhelming hospital emergency departments and urgent cares.”
Even though Ebola spreads via contact with blood and body fluids, Barthelemy believes that we need to use every method available to protect healthcare providers. “Until we have medications that arrest Ebola and have them in quantity, they are our last line of defense. If they come down with the virus, our healthcare system could be undermanned and overtaxed.”
He suggests using telemedicine technology to physically separate potential Ebola victims from most physicians and nurses. “The VA healthcare system and many parts of this country are already seeing and treating patients successfully using physicians in distant locations. The same technology could be used to assess patients for Ebola and, if necessary, treat them.”
Barthelemy believes that we are at least a decade behind in the kind of healthcare the U.S. should have in place now. “The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid do not reimburse physicians who use telemedicine technologies in urban areas because of the fear that doctors would overuse them.” The reimbursement issue is the subject of a number of bills before Congress that would remove the geographical restrictions on payments for telemedicine visits.
Barthelemy maintains that reimbursement is one of the main reasons why many physicians and hospitals have not developed telemedicine programs. Most of the telemedicine visits occurring today happen between urban doctors and patients in rural and underserved areas because CMS reimburses them. “Now, who is perhaps most vulnerable to the spread of infectious disease?” Barthelemy asks. “People who live in urban areas.”
GlobalMed develops integrated telemedicine solutions for healthcare providers and corporate health programs, and they are currently in use on the African continent. Our mission is to transform healthcare globally by developing and integrating secure and efficient health delivery systems that improve access and quality of care, while eliminating unnecessary costs. For more information, visit www.globalmed.com or call 1-800-886-3692
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