This story has been updated to include additional information.
Israel’s Sheba Medical Center is preparing to take custody of the 12 Israeli passengers onboard the Diamond Princess, the cruise ship that has been quarantined in Japan for several weeks because of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
The group does not include any confirmed cases — the two Israelis in that number are being treated in a hospital in Japan — but nonetheless Sheba is taking precautions to house the group in a special quarantined area of the campus, and to treat them in a way that minimizes contact with staff.
That’s where telehealth comes in, in a somewhat unusual use case: not to treat patients who are far away, but to treat patients who are on the hospital grounds.
Sheba is working with at least three vendors to make telemedicine care work for these patients. Longtime remote monitoring partner Datos, whose platform they used to develop a monitoring program and treatment protocols, and Tyto Care, a new partner who will provide the devices and the consumer-friendly user experience essential to allow patients to conduct exams without medical staff present.
A third solution, from recent Teladoc acquisition InTouch Health, is a robotic telemedicine cart called Vici equipped with a camera, screen, and medical equipment that can be sent into a quarantined patient area and controlled remotely by a doctor or nurse.
WHY IT MATTERS
For both Datos and Tyto Care, the needs of a high-pressure situation showcase some of their products’ strengths.
“One of the main things in our platform is the fact that in a few hours from the moment they decided they wanted to have a dedicated corona program, they had it. It’s drag and drop,” Datos CEO Uri Bettesh told MobiHealthNews. “For the coronavirus there’s a thermometer, blood pressure cap, and a C02 device, all connected by a tablet. And that tablet also facilitates virtual visits through the platform."
Sheba had already implemented a number of remote patient monitoring platforms through Datos, but Datos’s system is designed to make it easy to create new programs without needing outside technical help. Sheba will also use Datos’s platform to continue to monitor these patients once they’re discharged, sending them home with specialized tablets that will remind them to check certain vitals and facilitate regular video checkups.
For Tyto Care, the relevant value proposition is twofold.
“Our capability to listen to the lungs and identify findings there is one of the main reasons Sheba implemented Tyto in this area,” Eyal Baum, the company’s director of strategic accounts, explained. “But another advantage is Tyto was designed for consumers. We are maybe the only stethoscope that is designed for consumers. And this is another reason Tyto is being used, they wanted those patients to be able to use those devices on themselves.”
Tablets and connected devices will be waiting for patients in the quarantine area when they arrive, and will be able to be continuously monitored by Sheba staff while having very limited physical interaction with them. Physicians have already been trained on the systems and are ready for the patients’ arrival tomorrow.
“In certain situations, like if you need to do a blood test, you need to be in contact,” Tyto Care CEO Dedi Gilad said. “But they are trying to reduce the need to be in contact. The fact that patients can do the exam on their own can really limit the alert level.”
THE LARGER TREND
COVID-19 is the first major disease outbreak in the last several years, so it presents an opportunity, if not an obligation, for the many digital health companies and technologies that have emerged in that time to see what they can do to help.
This past Friday, MobiHealthNews rounded up a number of those efforts.
ON THE RECORD
"If and when the virus does come to Israel, we may end up being overwhelmed with a large number of coronavirus cases, all diagnosed at the same time, which could result in both staff and patients being at risk despite taking the most extreme precautions," Dr. Galia Barkai, head of telemedicine services at Sheba, said in a statement. "Datos' solution can help us greatly reduce this risk by enabling us to monitor less severe patients outside the hospital, in the relative safety and comfort within their homes, with the telemedicine app enabling us to communicate with them via video whenever necessary."