Israel’s Sheba Medical Center is set to use top-of-the-line Israeli tele-medicine technologies to care for 11 nationals making their way back from a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship docked off the coast of Japan for the past several weeks. The Israelis are expected to arrive at the hospital early Friday where they will be placed in isolation for the next 14 days.
The patients do not have any symptoms of the novel coronavirus which has so far (as of February 20) infected over 75,000 and killed over 2,100 people, mainly in mainland China, but the 14-day quarantine is in accordance with guidelines set out by the World Health Organization. Three Israelis traveling on the ship, the Diamond Princess, were diagnosed with the coronavirus, currently known as 2019-nCoV and severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), and are currently hospitalized in Japan. The ship was carrying over 3,700 people from more than 40 countries.
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The 11 Israelis will be housed in an isolation unit at an evacuated hotel on the Sheba campus but away from the main hospital, the medical center said in a statement.
The hospital will be using technologies such as medical robots, devices and AI-powered sensors operated remotely by doctors to monitor patients and conduct basic check-ups. Participating Israeli companies include Tyto Care, a tele-health company that developed handheld, at-home examination devices that examine the heart, lungs, skin, ears, throat and abdomen, as well as measure body temperature; Datos, a big data platform and app that allows for continuous contact with patients and leverages patient-generated health data for care delivery; and EarlySense, which developed a clipboard-sized sensor that can be embedded in any mattress to monitor sleep, vital signs, and motion, leveraging AI and big data analytics to help clinicians in early detection of patient deterioration.
“As Israel welcomes home its citizens from the Diamond Princess cruise who have been directly affected by the coronavirus, Tyto Care is honored to be working with Sheba Medical Center to provide the safest, highest quality medical care to the patients during the quarantine period to help stem the spread of the virus,” said Dedi Gilad, Tyto Care CEO and co-founder. Each of the 12 patients will receive a Tyto Care device to perform comprehensive medical examinations on themselves which “will provide Sheba staff the clinical data they require to make fully informed decisions from a safe distance, without physical exposure to the patients or any contact between the patients.”
“Our solution ensures complete isolation without sacrificing the quality of medical care, preventing further escalation during this critical time,” added Gilad.
Dr. Galia Barkai, director of tele-medicine services at Sheba said, “Datos’ solution can help us greatly reduce this risk by enabling us to monitor less severe patients outside the hospital …with the telemedicine app enabling us to communicate with them via video whenever necessary.”
Professor Arnon Afek, deputy director-general of the Sheba Medical Center and the director of Sheba’s General Hospital said: “We are using some of the world’s most sophisticated high-tech tele-medicine applications taken from our startup ecosystem at Sheba and Israel, using sensors, robots, hand-held devices in order to minimize exposure to our medical staff. The goal is to make our returning citizens feel comfortable in an environment where they will know that all of their needs will be taken care of.”
Professor Afek said the hospital will be doing its utmost “to minimize and eliminate the danger to the public by isolating the returning Israeli citizens,” and is had been preparing for a potential outbreak in the country.
“If anyone becomes ill, we are well prepared to deal with it,” he said, adding that it was important to note that “nearly 80 percent of COVID-19 patients around the world have had a non-complicated version of the virus, with symptoms not that different from the flu, which have been treated accordingly.”
Professor Elhanan Bar-On, director of Sheba Medical Center’s Center for Disaster Medicine and Humanitarian Response said the hospital “will provide for all of their medical and personal needs during their stay.”
“We are doing everything we can to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Israel,” he went on.
Israel has been bracing for the coronavirus to reach the country. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a cabinet meeting earlier this month that the arrival of the virus in Israel was “unavoidable” and called on the Health Ministry and the relevant authorities to launch preparations.
Israeli has also restricted travel, banning entry to those traveling from China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, and Macau.
“We still do not know what will happen with this disease. We do not know if there is a pandemic or something more limited, such as we have seen with the flu or SARS. We do not know; therefore, we will continue this over-preparation,” Netanyahu said on Wednesday after touring Sheba’s isolation unit ahead of the patients’ arrival.
The 11 Israelis will be assigned a special voting location on March 2 when Israel will hold its third round of elections in a year.