Doctors in Israel care for Ukrainians 2,000 km away, as tech shrinks world

Using computerized systems built in Israel, physicians examine refugees on the Ukraine-Moldova border, check lungs, blood stats and even conduct prenatal ultrasounds

Nathan Jeffay is The Times of Israel's health and science correspondent

Pregnant patient and Ukrainian refugee Sarah Misk using Sheba Beyond’s telehealth technology in Moldova to talk to doctors in Israel, March 2, 2022. (Sheba Medical Center)
Pregnant patient and Ukrainian refugee Sarah Misk using Sheba Beyond’s telehealth technology in Moldova to talk to doctors in Israel, March 2, 2022. (Sheba Medical Center)

In an office near Tel Aviv, a doctor checks the lungs of a Ukrainian refugee who is 2,000 kilometers away. It’s part of a new “virtual hospital” that has Israeli medical staff caring for people injured or displaced in Russia’s onslaught.

They are seeing patients using a range of tech solutions, many of them Israeli-built, that provide the refugees with telemedicine physical examinations, prenatal ultrasounds, health vitals monitoring, blood sample analysis and a range of other checks.

The medical professionals are located at Sheba Medical Center, Israel’s largest hospital, while the patients are in Chisinau, the Moldavan capital. In this city, near the Ukraine border, Sheba has one doctor and several volunteers helping patients to interact with the doctors in Israel.

The Sheba team is part of a delegation sent by United Hatzalah of Israel, the Jerusalem-based rescue organization.

“I have been treating everyone. There have been pregnant mothers and elderly men and women suffering from a range of ailments caused by the long and incredibly stressful journey to cross the border,” Prof. Gadi Segal, head of internal telemedicine at Sheba, told The Times of Israel.

“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.”

A doctor at Sheba Medical Center provides care for a Ukra Sarah Misk using Sheba Beyond’s telehealth technology in Kishinev, Moldova, March 2, 2022. (Sheba Medical Center)

He said that Israeli telemedicine advanced during the coronavirus crisis, adding: “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.”

One of the systems in use, Pulsenmore, is a portable prenatal ultrasound device that takes images anywhere and sends them for analysis to Sheba’s obstetrics and gynecology department in Israel.

Computerized footage of an ultrasound device in development by Israeli startup PulseNmore. (Screen capture: Hadashot)

TytoCare checks refugee children’s lungs, heart, mouth, ears, skin, temperature and oxygen saturation levels, while units by Biobeat Medical Technologies monitor vital signs and displays them on the remote physician’s dashboard in real time.

Sarit Lerner, chief technology for Sheba Beyond, her hospital’s telemedicine program, said that her team acted as soon as it recognized the opportunity.

“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,” she said.

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