A close look at how Sheba Medical Center became the most prominent, leading-edge hospital in Israel, receiving the spot in the top 10 hospitals in the world.
“We were founded by David Ben-Gurion, the founder of the State of Israel, together with Chaim Sheba, who was at that time the Surgeon General of the IDF, and later the director-general of the Ministry of Health,” he explains. “They decided to establish a major, comprehensive hospital in central Israel. The basic idea was that someone who comes to Sheba, to the ER and wounded, will come out of our hospital rehabilitated; on their feet.”
Prof. Afek shares a recent example of how Sheba’s founding mission has been realized:
Just a few years ago, the head of the IDF’s parachute division suffered extensive injuries when his parachute didn’t open while he was on a jump. His reserve parachute eventually opened, but only at the last second – a few hundred meters from the ground, and he crashed. He was brought to Sheba and remained hospitalized in the ICU for weeks. The medical team feared for his life. Not only did he survive, but he proceeded directly to rehabilitation and was later able to run the triathlon.
“It was a tremendous achievement for him,” says Prof. Afek, “And very satisfying for us as well.”
This is just one story that illustrates the premier skills, progressive technologies, and passion that comprises Sheba Medical Center. These attributes and more are the reasons behind Sheba’s prestigious inclusion on the list of Top 10 Hospitals Worldwide.
Prof. Afek attributes Sheba’s success largely to the spirit of the staff, “… The people at Sheba work very, very hard. It isn’t just a matter of working hard to treat patients – everyone does that. We also have a very innovative spirit, so people [here] are always trying to do research, investigate, and innovate things.
“We opened the ARC: Sheba Innovation Center. And we let our physicians do their startups within our hospital, and we help them do so,” explains Prof. Afek. “Once you combine all of that together: the spirit, the innovation, the care for people, I think that is the winning formula.”
Sheba has a very close relationship with many leading American hospitals. Recently, Prof. Afek attended a conference at MD Anderson in Texas, a leading American cancer institute. Sheba has also collaborated with the Mayo Clinic and several NY-based hospitals.
“It is very, very important for us to learn from the experiences of other people and hospitals. We are a major site for many American and international pharmaceutical companies, who do development work here at Sheba. We’re always trying to find something new, something we can add [to medical practice and knowledge]. That, I think, is part of the Jewish tradition.”
Sheba is driven by a vision that people won’t need to physically come to the hospital as digitized medicine becomes more widespread. Prof. Afek explains the advantages of digital healthcare, “If you know how the number of older people is growing [rapidly] and understand how many more physicians and nurses and healthcare professionals are needed, you’ll understand that you cannot continue to take care of all these people just by increasing the number of healthcare professionals. You have to find something else, like telemedicine.”
Being ranked among the top 10 hospitals requires more than taking good care of the patients, thus Sheba is also driven by a vision that people won’t need to physically come to the hospital as digitized medicine becomes more widespread. Prof. Afek explains the advantages of digital healthcare, “If you know how the number of older people is growing [rapidly] and understand how many more physicians and nurses and healthcare professionals are needed, you’ll understand that you cannot continue to take care of all these people just by increasing the number of healthcare professionals. You have to find something else, like telemedicine.”
Sheba also views digital medicine as an effective solution for providing expert care to people in rural, sparsely populated areas, where specialists are not available. By bringing telemedicine to the outskirts of Israel or the US, top-tier healthcare can become globalized. Instead of asking “who is the best doctor near me,” people will be able to ask “who is the best expert in the world?”, and then connect with that physician through telemedicine. The patient can share medical information, and the doctor can provide a list of the necessary exams to do. Once, the test results are in, they can schedule a consultation.
“You can get the best medical treatment even if you live in some place very remote and beautiful, like the Rocky Mountains,” says Prof. Afek.