Israel Prepares for Coronavirus Epidemic

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Datos App Video Call

Amid conflicting predictions and mounting dread about the arrival of the coronavirus in Israel, Sheba Medical Centre is preparing for it with different high-tech means: a telemedicine app that enables patients to receive care in the isolation, but comfort, of their own home; and robots that can treat in-hospital patients in order to minimize contact with staff. 

Sheba’s Datos Health-In is a telemedicine app which enables patients to remain in isolation at home. In the event of an epidemic, with more patients than isolation rooms available, the app can be a viable tool for patients who are not severely ill. With the app, patients can enter vital signs and other information which is directly accessed by their doctor. Patients can also establish contact with their physicians at any time of day or night. 

The program was launched on February 9 and tested on Israelis who had been in China and who, according to Health Ministry instructions, must be in quarantine for 14 days, the incubation period of the virus. Doctors initialize contact with the patients twice a day. “This is one instance where telemedicine protects staff as well as other patients, by minimizing direct contact with those infected with the coronavirus,” explained Galia Barkai, head of telemedicine services at Sheba. 

Another high-tech solution for patients possibly infected with the coronavirus is a robot which can enter the patient’s room and be controlled by medical staff from the outside. Designed by California-based virtual healthcare company Intouch Health, the robots are already in use in other departments, such as in the ICU of pediatric cardiology and the Trauma Unit. “This technology is the perfect solution to provide care for inpatients infected with coronavirus, while protecting staff from contagion,” said Barkai. 

Sheba recently ran its first drill in its new field hospital, a modular unit that can be erected in a nearby open area and used for treating coronavirus patients. The unit would include a special area for examining those suspected of contracting the virus, as well as an isolation area for those who test positive.

Screening for the virus produces results in just a few hours. But with symptoms that are not very dramatic and more reminiscent of flu, including fever, cough, and shortness of breath, Israel’s Health Ministry allows only those who have returned from China and a few other countries in the Far East to be tested. At the time of this writing, no arrivals from China or the Far East have tested positive.

Sheba Medical Centre Will Host & Quarantine Returning Diamond Princess’ Israeli Citizens

Sheba Medical Centre at Tel Hashomer will host those Israeli citizens who had been confined to the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan during the past few weeks, and who’ve not exhibited coronavirus symptoms. The ill-fated vacationers will be flown back to Israel on a special flight, hopefully arriving by the end of this week, and sent to Sheba Medical Centre, where they will be fully examined and treated by a specially trained medical staff. 

The Israelis will be quarantined for up to two weeks in comfortable quarters on the Sheba campus, at a distance from the main hospital complex, allowing for the medical center to function in a normal manner.

“We are working closely with the Japanese government, the Foreign Ministry and emergency services to safely bring home the Israeli citizens. We are also working to ensure the safety of all Israeli citizens as well. We have instructed Sheba how to deal with the challenging logistics involved, Israeli Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman said.

Sheba has already prepared a strategy for treating corona patients with various high-tech means, including a robot that can enter the patient’s room and which is controlled by medical staff from outside the room.  Designed by California-based virtual healthcare company Intouch Health, the robots are already in use in other departments, such as in the ICU of pediatric cardiology and the Trauma Unit. “This technology is the perfect solution to provide care for inpatients infected with coronavirus, while protecting staff from contagion,” said Galia Barkai, head of telemedicine services at Sheba. 

In addition, the bed in the quarantine rooms is equipped with a sensor under the mattress that can monitor body heat and movement which are conveyed to a central screen and viewed by the medical team.

In the event of large numbers of infected patients who are not severely ill, Sheba will use a very sophisticated telemedicine app that will enable patients to receive treatment at home.  With the app, patients to enter vital signs and other information which is directly accessed by their doctor. Patients can also establish contact with their physicians at any time of day or night. 

The telemedicine app is currently being used with Israelis who returned from China and who, according to Health Ministry instructions, must be in quarantine for 14 days, the incubation period of the virus. Doctors initialize contact with the patients twice a day. “This is one instance where telemedicine can protect staff as well as other patients, by minimizing direct contact with those infected,” Barkai explained. 

Prof. Elhanan Bar-On, the Director of Sheba’s Centre for Emergency Medicine said, “The center’s medical professionals are well prepared to deal with any national health or medical emergency. As such, we stand ready to assist and treat our citizens in a professional manner.”

by Ben Horodenker

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