As fears of the growing coronavirus endemic increase worldwide, Israel’s Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, has developed a groundbreaking way to treat potential patients without risking the health of hospital staff and other patients.

Using a Vici telemedicine system, designed by virtual health-care company Intouch Health, the robot-like apparatus can be controlled by doctors and nurses to enter the infected patient’s room and even monitor the patient’s vital signs, such as heart rate.

“This is one way to use telemedicine to protect our staff,” said Dr. Galia Barkai, head of Telemedicine Services at Sheba Medical Center. “By minimizing direct contact between the patients and medical personnel, we reduce the percentage risk of health-care staff contracting the virus.”

While coronavirus has not yet spread to Israel, Sheba is also prepared with a number of isolation rooms in case multiple patients are infected at the same time in an effort to protect staff and other patients from risk of infection.

Dr. Galia Barkai. Source: LinkedIn.

“Although we don’t have any positive patients in Israel, we are always dealing with suspected patients and preparing for the worst-case scenario,” said Barkai. “So, we are creating all these systems to help us deal with the occasion when we might have to deal with many patients.”

Sheba will also use the telemedicine application Datos to help treat coronavirus patients who are not as critically ill. This application allows medical professionals to monitor patients from the comfort and isolation of their own homes.

“We would give them our telemedicine application and communicate with them via video at least twice a day,” she said. “This would allow them to stay more comfortably in their homes and reduce risk within the hospital.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is closely monitoring the outbreak of the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, and that continues to expand. Chinese health officials have reported tens of thousands of infections, with reports of more than 1,000 deaths in mainland China having been caused by the respiratory ailment.

At a news conference in Geneva on Tuesday, Dr. Michael J. Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization (WHO), said “one clinical trial is already on the way” in China in an attempt to find a cure to the novel coronavirus. He adding that WHO was working with Chinese authorities to implement further clinical trials.

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