The new Women’s Health Innovation Center at Sheba enables safety for patients and doctors during the COVID-19 era and provides women who live far away to benefit from first-rate medical care.
One month ago, Sheba’s ARC Innovation Center launched the world’s first Women’s Health Innovation Center, directed by Dr. Avi Tsur, OB/GYN and high-risk pregnancy expert at the Josef Buchmann Gynecology and Maternity Center at Sheba. The pioneering femtech center was planned originally as a way to promote patient and doctor safety during COVID-19. Eventually, its reach will be expanded to bring top OB/GYN care to developing countries.
Dr. Tsur has recently returned to Israel after a 3-year stretch at Stanford Medical Center in California, where he was a visiting research and clinical fellow. He describes the pioneering Women’s Health Innovation Center as a way to serve women nationwide with first-rate OB/GYN medical treatment. Cutting-edge technological solutions will be used, including artificial intelligence, precision medicine and telemedicine.
The femtech center will handle a range of women’s health specialties, such as high-risk pregnancies, postpartum follow-up, contraception, IVF, gynecologic oncology and more.
At the inauguration event, Dr. Tsur presented various technologies from many different startups, and he explained how a pilot study must be conducted for each specific field to assess how the technology functions in a clinical setting. Depending on the particular cases, the goal is to enable patients to have part or all of their medical “visits” done from home.
One example of an innovative project of the center is an AI model that Dr. Tsur developed together with Dvir Aran, a data scientist (PhD) from the University of California. The device works to predict shoulder dystopia in labor.
“Until now, this potentially life-threatening complication was considered unpredictable, but we developed a technological model to predict it. We were then able to validate this model through our ongoing collaboration with Stanford, the University of Texas, and UCSF,” said Dr. Tsur, excitedly.
Using AI, extended reality and other high-tech technologies to develop new solutions, Sheba’s collaboration with these world-renowned institutes will be continued.
Dr. Tsur also described a variety of advanced gadgets that allow women with high-risk pregnancies to stay at home and self-monitor.
“Remote monitoring of vital signs, blood count and glucose, fetal monitoring and sonographic evaluation all reduce the need for high-risk and post-date pregnant women to attend the clinic in person, while the situation is constantly assessed either by AI methods or by an obstetrician who is online,” he said.
Another pilot study using telemedicine involves discharging women about eight hours after delivery, instead of hospitalizing them for the typical 36-48 hours. This study is exploring the effectiveness of a comprehensive women’s health telemedicine solution that provides at-home follow-up and early detection of the most usual postpartum problems, such as thromboembolic complications, surgical wound infection, postpartum depression, and breastfeeding difficulties.
The Women’s Health Innovation Center is designed on a concept of telemedicine that allows image-sharing between doctors, instead of serving only as a diagnostic tool between doctor and patient. For example, an obstetrician performing an ultrasound in one facility can share the imaging in real-time online, connecting with leading experts around the globe for guidance.
Various other projects are currently in the works, such as remote gynecologic oncology evaluations. This specific initiative, which uses an AI-enabled device for self-examination, is to be led by Dr. Jacob Korach, Director of the Gynecologic Oncology Department at Sheba. If the projects are successful, the technologies can also be applied to developing countries where women do not have access to quality medical care.
As far-reaching as the potential of telemedicine is, it elicits diverse reactions from doctors. Even Dr. Tsur has mixed feelings about treating patients remotely. He stressed that providing patients with the best treatment remains the overriding mission.
“Telemedicine creates new challenges because part of our clinical skill depends on being in the same room with the patient. I think that we need to leverage the new technology so as to overcome the associated disadvantages,” he said. “Clearly, we will never compromise. Telemedicine is meant to enhance treatment; when the need arises, we will convert a telemedicine visit to a real visit.”