very wonder what the hospital room of 2030 will look like? The Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, Israel, has unveiled some exciting health technologies that appear to belong more to the realm of science fiction than to modern health care. While some are still in the pilot stage, many have already been implemented in some preliminary form, due to the advent of covid-19.
“Like it or not, the pandemic has served as an accelerator for technologies that were already in the pipeline, but whose development had to be expedited due to the desperate circumstances,” explains Dr. Eyal Zimlichman, chief medical officer at Sheba, and director of Sheba’s ARC (Accelerate, Redesign, Collaborate) center. “In the past weeks, we’ve invented and designed additional technologies in direct response to the unique challenges of the coronavirus crisis.”
Zimlichman explained that instead of passively responding to events, Sheba has been working directly with medical startups to solicit solutions according to need. “We’ll continue to be proactive and expand digital health with the goal of optimizing patient care and outcomes,” he said.
In response to queries when the new “medtech” would migrate to the US market, Zimlichman stressed that the emerging technologies were the fruit of global collaboration, involving, for the most part, North America. “ARC is a global ecosystem. We work with more than 15 hospitals around the world, mostly in the US and Canada. That means that what you see here is taking place in collaboration with medical centers across the globe.”
The following are a few of the technologies we can expect to see in the hospital room of the future:
Diagnosis by voice: Diagnosis is one of the most crucial challenges of COVID 19. The revolutionary Vocalis Health technology analyzes voice imprints to detect changes in voice and breathing as markers for the presence of the disease as well as its progression. Vocalis Health is being developed as an app that can be uploaded to any smartphone. In what is hoped will be a game-changer, research is underway to expand diagnostic ability to the asymptomatic phase of the coronavirus.
Telemedicine: Telemedicine burst onto the scene on a large scale with the opening of the first covid-19 ward. With the help of a kit that contains devices for self-examination and a robot that serves as a communication console as well as a remote examining tool, doctors are now able to provide 80 percent of treatment from a distance, thereby keeping patients in isolation and reducing risk to medical staff to the greatest degree possible. Clearly, telemedicine is here to stay. Both software and hardware are constantly being expanded and improved, well on the way to becoming an integral part of mainstream digital health, not only in the field of infectious diseases.
Sensors: Sensors that provide constant monitoring have been on the market for several years, such as the constant glucose monitor that has been life-changing for those with type 1 diabetes. Unlike those skin-embedded sensors, EarlySense is contact-free, placed under the patient’s mattress from where it monitors vital signs, including respiration rate and heart rate. Employing artificial intelligence, the sensor can now predict patient deterioration and alert medical staff to an impending emergency. For covid-19 patients, who may suffer a sudden, unexpected downturn, such an early warning system can spell the difference between recovery and death.
Smart Tracking System: Using facial recognition technology, the Anyvision system keeps patients and staff safe by verifying that individual staff members were not in proximity to anyone who tested positive for coronavirus. Anyvision employs already existing surveillance cameras, and can be programed according to various parameters, including the exact distance between the subject and an infected person, for how long, and more.
Increasing efficiency in the emergency room and ICU: Clew, dubbed the “AI control tower,” is a system of predictive analytics meant to streamline care and increase efficiency in the emergency room and the ICU. Clew helps with tasks from locating available beds, to determining the severity of a patient versus the rest of the patients on the floor, as well as providing early warning of patient deterioration.
Urine output is one of the ICU patient markers that need to be checked regularly, typically by physically approaching the bedside. The Serenno monitoring device transmits that data digitally, precluding the need to go near the bedside, and thereby reducing risk of staff infection in the covid ward. Technology is currently being developed to enable the measured urine to be tested, with results automatically entered into the patient chart.
Augmented Reality: Augmented and mixed reality applications are as vast as the imagination. Sheba is already using VR technology extensively, for example, to help train rookie doctors, affording them opportunities to perform “rehearsals” before complicated procedures and surgeries. Additionally, staff are encouraged to take a break from the high-pressure atmosphere and refresh themselves with VR entertainment. On a more somber note, the shortage of ventilator technicians during the covid-19 crisis has led Sheba’s staff to establish contact with experts at a distant location using the Microsoft HoloLens 2 mixed reality smart glasses. The technology allows them to receive visual guidance and instruction in real time, as if they were standing right there next to them.
Cooperation with the defense industry: Professor Amitai Ziv, deputy director of Sheba Medical Center, remarked how gratifying and exciting it is to see the productive collaboration between Israel’s defense and health industries in response to the covid-19 crisis. Amid fears that the number of patients needing respiratory assistance may exceed the number of respirators available, IDF’s Military Intelligence worked around the clock to develop technology that converts non-invasive CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure machines, used to help people with light respiratory distress), into ventilators for severely ill respiratory patients. This technology has been hailed around the world as a groundbreaking invention that could tip the scales of coronavirus victims globally.
The future is now: Both Ziv and Zimlichman stressed that while most of the technologies presented here are already employed at Sheba, widespread use will still take a few years — and that’s not taking into account the fact that the technologies are still being fine-tuned and developed. “What we’ve outlined here is the hospital room 1.0,” said Zimlichman. “We have much more in store, and by the end of this year, we foresee many more technologies.”
Sheba Medical Center