Tech taking OB-GYN care to the home in boost of telemedicine for women

Israel’s Sheba Medical Center holds competition in a bid to pilot devices that remotely monitor women’s and fetal health

Shoshanna Solomon was The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

HeraMed has developed a medical grade ultrasound monitoring device for home use (YouTube screenshot)
HeraMed has developed a medical grade ultrasound monitoring device for home use (YouTube screenshot)

Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer in Ramat Gan, in a bid to boost the use of telemedicine for women’s health, is looking for pilots to hold with leading startups in the field.

The hospital, the nation’s biggest, is holding a competition on Friday, in which 15 startups will pitch their wares to a panel of doctors, VC fund managers and experts from the tech industry. The judges will choose five winners, who will get to try out their technologies, and prove their effectiveness, with patients and doctors associated with the hospital.

The teams will have to also come up with a model for how exactly the pilot will work, said Dr. Galia Barkai, who heads ARC Sheba, the innovation arm of the hospital, and who was behind the telemedicine revolution via which the hospital dealt with the coronavirus pandemic. The hospital has been at the forefront of Israel’s battle against the coronavirus, pioneering the use of technologies such as medical robots, devices, and AI-powered sensors that are operated remotely by doctors to monitor patients in special wards or at home.

Sheba Medical Center was listed by Newsweek in 2019 as one of the world’s top 10 hospitals for its medical science and biotechnical innovation.

Dr. Galia Barkai, who heads ARC Sheba, the innovation arm of Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer (Courtesy)

Even before the coronavirus struck, said Barkai, the hospital had understood the value of telemedicine. The pandemic has just speeded up the process of the adoption of technologies that have enabled doctors to treat coronavirus patients in the hospital and at home, and transformed many hospital outpatient services into virtual services.

“We are making a big effort at Sheba to promote telemedicine and the use of technologies that will allow us to provide better services,” Barkai said in a phone interview. When coronavirus struck, the hospital “upgraded all of these telemedicine services.”

Now, she added, “we have developed the awareness that we have to take this a step forward, and take all of the experience we have accrued, and the ideas we have started developing, and scale them up.”

Progress on telemedicine is being made on all fronts because of the pandemic, she added, in technology, implementation and also, importantly, in regulation. All of this will give telemedicine a fast push forward.

Friday’s competition aims to bring telemedicine to the field of gynecology, and will help match the needs of patients and doctors with the plethora of technologies that are already being developed in the field.

The “hospital room of the future,” built in the Israel Center for Medical Simulation at Sheba Medical Center (courtesy of Sheba Medical Center)

“FemTech is a field in which there is a big need and there are many technologies that are being developed, and the idea is now to bring these into use, by checking them out,” she said.

Doctors don’t know what technologies are out there, she said. The competition aims to increase awareness, create exposure to the technologies and test some of them, with the idea to incorporate them eventually into the daily workflow of interaction with patients.

The presenting companies include startups and multinationals operating in the Israeli tech ecosystem, from a variety of so-called FemTech fields: gynecology, oncology, IVF, pregnancy follow-up and postpartum.

The Dutch multinational conglomerate Philips, for example, will pitch its ultrasound app, Lumify, which is a portable ultrasound connected to a smart device. The global healthcare firm will also show off its Avalon CL fetal and maternal single-use patches that capture fetal and maternal vitals.

Israeli-based startup PulseNmore will pitch its handheld ultrasound device, which allows parents to check on fetal wellbeing. The device docks with the users’ smartphone and sends images for analysis to healthcare providers.

Israeli start-up MobileODT has created the Eva System, which uses an Automated Visual Evaluation (AVE) algorithm, which has proved to be more reliable than a human expert when conducting a colposcopy in identifying abnormal tissue that points to a possible future development of cervical cancer (Courtesy)

Israeli startup GynTool has developed an artificial intelligence-based diagnostic vaginal discharge collection tool and scanning device that can be used in gynecology clinics and pharmacies, to provide rapid diagnostic solutions. The firm has also developed a self-test kit for home use to diagnose vaginitis, an inflammation of the vagina.

MobileODT will display its FDA-cleared mobile digital colposcope to detect cervical cancer.

HeraMed has developed a medical grade ultrasound monitoring device for home use. The firm’s HeraBEAT is a smartphone-based fetal heartbeat monitor that enables mothers to monitor the fetal heartbeat anytime and anywhere.

Tel Aviv-based Nuvo Group will present its INVU pregnancy monitoring platform, powered by artificial intelligence. The technology comprises a wearable sensor band that connects to the cloud and smartphones or tablets.

Tel Aviv’s EFA-Technologies is developing the RevDX, a portable lab that aims to automatically diagnose infectious diseases and perform blood cell counts.

MyMilk Labs is developing a handheld breast milk scanner that connects with an app that monitors milk quality and production and provides information about the origin of complications including pain and infection.

Holon-based IsenseU is developing a Milk-o-Meter, a small wearable sensor that measures how much the infant breastfed by monitoring unique physiological swallowing patterns.

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