How Coronavirus Has Changed the Medical Treatments We’ll Receive

“At the beginning of the pandemic, I thought it would be a two or three-month issue we’d eventually adapt to and then it’d be over. We didn’t imagine that its impact on our lives would be so great.

It was a big learning curve for the hospital from the very beginning, when I was tasked with establishing the first ward for coronavirus patients. This meant using telemedicine tools not to remotely treat patients, but to protect medical staff.

We started with these patients and then the lockdown began. The outpatient clinics closed and no one could leave their houses. Most of the patients who really needed us were those not suffering from COVID-19: cancer patients, children with chronic diseases, and more.

So very quickly, within 10 days, we enabled all of our caregivers to perform treatments via video. Because we deployed this service so quickly, we were able to learn relatively easily how to improve its processes. If we had implemented it for a year in the hospital, it would have taken much longer to improve processes, to learn about the technology and the sequence of treatment.

During the pandemic, we realized that beyond wanting to give people access to remote services, we wanted to build an independent body that will greatly increase our telemedicine capabilities. This is the unit I am currently in the process of setting up.

We are setting up services that will allow us to monitor patients at home, perform home hospitalizations, and make these services available even to people who are geographically far from us. Take people who live a long way from central Israel, for example, and are unable to receive cardiac rehabilitation. Thanks to the fact that we can conduct cardiac rehabilitative care remotely, we’ll be able to provide the service to people who live further away, as well. I see telemedicine as a means of making quality medical services accessible to more distant places. Remote medical services also make it possible to discharge people quickly to their homes rather than keeping them in long-term hospitalization.

One of the things that surprised me was that my patients adapted to the service relatively quickly. It was actually more difficult for the doctors. It was harder for them technologically, and from an administrative viewpoint it’s more complex for the caregiver.

We must remember that the medical profession is a very physical one. Physicians have to undergo serious adaptive change to be able to break away from the belief that they must physically be in the same space with their patients – to touch them, hold their hand, and see them up-close.

I myself, during the years I worked in the ward, never missed an opportunity to conduct a physical examination of each of my patients – even if I had examined them the day before and I knew exactly what I’d find in their stomach or legs. These rituals are deeply ingrained, and you feel you haven’t done your job if you haven’t examined the patient from head to toe. Breaking away from this habit presents a difficulty to someone who has been doing it for many years.

Even for me, someone who has been practicing telemedicine for a few years, it’s hard to give up the physical, hands-on care. And I’m sure that in the future, in addition to remote medicine, there will still be plenty of room for physical contact, face-to-face meetings, and intensive personal treatment.”