From Tel Aviv, doctors at Sheba Medical Center, Israel’s largest hospital, are treating patients 2,000 km (more than 1,200 miles away) as they flee the Russian invasion of Ukraine—all through the miracle of technology. Sheba has sent a doctor and other medical volunteers (through United Hatzalah of Israel, a volunteer emergency medical services organization) to Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, just over the border from Ukraine, to coordinate with the medical team back in Israel.
“I have been treating everyone. There have been pregnant mothers and elderly men and women suffering from a range of ailments caused by their long and incredibly stressful journey to cross the border,” Professor Gadi Segal, who heads internal telemedicine at Sheba, said. “And there have been children and chronic patients in need of urgent advanced blood tests. And all of them are given care from my office in Sheba.”
Thanks to a variety of technology solutions—many of them pioneered by Israelis—the doctors in Tel Aviv can do physical exams, prenatal ultrasounds to check on mom and baby, monitor vital signs (blood pressure, etc.), analyze blood samples, and more, while their patients are more than a thousand miles away.
The coronavirus pandemic actually served as a catalyst to propel telemedicine to the forefront of medical treatment options in Israel and around the world. Segal said, “We learned during the pandemic how telemedicine can revolutionize medicine, and it’s moving to be able to use it to treat the refugees virtually from Israel. The limits of geography and distance are being abolished. We can execute the best clinical judgment and the best professional consultations for patients in a war zone and even on the front lines.”
Sarit Lerner is Chief of Technology for Sheba Beyond, the telemedicine arm of Sheba Medical Center. “We felt we had a moral obligation to provide the technology and expertise of Sheba’s clinicians and specialists to be on the ground to help these refugees.”
Some of the technology being used to help Ukrainian refugees in the war zone include Pulsenmore—a portable ultrasound device that can take images anywhere and send them for analysis at Sheba; TytoCare—which can check children’s heart, mouth, lungs, ears, skin, temperature, and oxygen saturation levels; and then there are Biobeat Medical Technologies units that can monitor vital signs (such as blood pressure) and then send the information to a display monitor in real time for a doctor to read.
Also, on Thursday, Israel sent a 40-member team of volunteer emergency medics and 15 tons of aid and supplies through United Hatzalah to neighboring Moldova to staff three field hospitals and tend to Ukrainian refugees.
One medic, Miri Shvimmer, said she feels a strong connection to the plight of the refugees because of her family’s history in World War II.
“Several decades ago, it was us. It’s disturbing to see it still happening, to innocent people, so it’s important to act,” Shvimmer said. “My grandparents were in Auschwitz. We were always told that there were some people who helped, but so many didn’t. And by going to help now, it demonstrates that we are a country and a people who come and want to help.”
Dr. Einat Kaufman, who is leading the Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit, said, “These people have lost everything all of a sudden. Their lives, their identities – all in one day.”