Combating a pandemic is an extended campaign that combines planning and execution at the local and national levels, with two primary goals: ensuring that patients receive the best possible healthcare services while containing the virus to avoid medical institutions’ overburdening and the exhaustion of medical resources. To confront a crisis of this magnitude, the State of Israel turned to the local defense community – companies and organizations that excel in crisis-management and produce some of the world’s most cutting-edge systems to address security issues.
Leveraging their technological know-how and operational experience, Israel’s defense industries moved quickly to assist first responders and medical teams in dealing with the unique challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The close collaboration with medical institutions, and active support provided by SIBAT in the Ministry of Defense, enabled these companies to redirect and adapt their resources to develop and produce technological solutions for the challenges faced by medical teams.
The following will provide an overview of some of the challenges that medical institutions face in handling the pandemic, and introduce various technological solutions produced by Israeli defense industries. Isolation of patients during transport and in the wards poses a significant challenge for medical staff required to cleanse and sterilize themselves every time they contact a patient. To avoid further contamination during patients’ transport, medical teams may employ the IsoArk N36 Stretcher Isolation system developed by Beth-El, a company specializing in CBRN air filtration.
IsoArk N36 provides maximum protection and operational safety for patients, first responders, and medical teams during transportation in ambulances, within hospitals, or during air travel. BethEl’s IsoArk also provides Mobile Isolation Chambers, designed for the rapid setup of isolation wards. Quickly converting any space into a quarantine room or isolated ward, IsoArk uses HEPA biological filtration units that combine filtration and a powerful UV light, that eliminates viruses, bacteria, and germs. Filtration is a necessary measure to protect medical teams, but hospital facilities must also be sterilized frequently to prevent the spread of infections. Astronautics has partnered with US-based Badger to develop the Hawkeye Ozone-based disinfectant system. Ozone is a highly effective disinfectant -50 times more effective and 3,000 times faster than chlorine bleach in eliminating viruses, germs, and bacteria.
The ‘Aqueous Ozone Disinfectant Delivery System’ provides a reliable ‘Corona-Buster’ -quickly and efficiently eliminating any virus traces on surfaces. The Hawkeye operates as a portable system that uses water, air, and electricity and has low recurring costs. Since Hawkeye has no smell or chemical residue, treated spaces may be ready for re-use within a couple of minutes. The pandemic also challenges the supply chain of Personal Protection Equipment. Marom-Dolphin provides face shields and disposable protective suits, both classified as PPE. Shalon also provides HALF MASK RESPIRATORS. These dual cartridge negative pressure half-mask respirators are designed to protect the patient’s organs against industrial toxic chemicals. Provided with Shalon’s P3 filter, these masks provide superior protection against airborne particles, liquid, and solid aerosols greater than 0.3 micron, as well as bacteria and viruses such as COVID-19. Emergency scenarios require new medical facilities such as hospitals and laboratories to be set up at short notice.
To operate efficiently, they need a high-quality, highly reliable, advanced communications network enabling the delivery of information to medical teams at any given time. ECI has introduced a ‘Deployable Medical Communication Solution’ (DCMS). Designed as a ‘network in a box,’ DCMS is a rapidly deployable, secure solution, providing a secured communications platform with converged, multi-access backhaul connectivity that caters to scalable cloud-enabled computing infrastructure. COVID-19 presents many complex challenges for medical teams. They are subject to strict regulations before entering Coronavirus wards and are required to wear full-body protective clothing while treating patients. Any asset that minimizes caregivers’ exposure inside the quarantine wards would protect staff and ensure that patients receive the best possible care.
Robots are useful in administering medical assistance inside isolated wards. NurseeBot developed by RobotiCan is a mobile platform for remote patient care and assistive logistics. The robot helps doctors communicate with patients while avoiding physical contact and reducing exposure to the virus. The system is comprised of a tablet computer that provides video and audio from the patient’s side and a computer with a camera and a microphone on the medical team’s side. NurseeBot carries up to 50 kg of supplies, including a UVC disinfecting system for rapid and efficient sterilization indoors. Additional technological means are designed to increase medical services’ efficiency and reduce staff exposure to the virus.
Elbit Systems’ Ex-Teams is a cross-organizational, multi-user collaboration system supporting voice, video, location services, and chat connectivity. Ex-Teams provides rapid and intuitive voice and data communications. When integrated with robotic systems, sensors, and remotely operated devices, Ex-Teams enables remote treatment and monitoring. The Ex-Teams System is provided as a service (SAAS), over an encrypted cloud-based system, ready for immediate operation via a downloadable app. Technology is also essential in decision-making processes and the allocation of medical services and resources.
EyeDoc, built by the Israel Ministry of Defense tank and APC development administration, was developed as part of the center’s effort to support local hospitals. This AI-based remote patient monitoring system digitizes the output from standard monitors, processes the video with artificial intelligence, and displays the readout at a remote control center outside the isolated ward. With the data collected and analyzed by the system, EyeDoc produces relevant alerts for immediate intervention.
Some systems address specific tasks routinely performed by medical teams, such as measuring a patient’s vital signs. Using remote monitoring, Elbit Systems’ E-Res system replaces this manual task with a miniature radar and optical sensor that measures patients’ vitals in real-time. E-Res accurately measure respiration, pulse, and temperature from a safe distance. The system can also perform analytical procedures providing efficient and accurate non-contact screening for patient evaluation. It is eliminating the need for direct contact with the patient and provides medical staff with essential, accurate information.
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), has developed a model that predicts the progression of the medical status of COVID-19 patients, further assisting hospitals in preparing for an escalation in the medical condition of patients. Built utilizing data from Sheba Medical Center, the model processes medical data using artificial intelligence (AI), big data, and machine learning technology. Due to its predictive capabilities, the system may alert medical staff about the possible deterioration in a patient’s condition, thus enhancing patient care and flagging serious cases.
With pressure on life support systems mounting at intensive care wards, medical teams aim to assist patients if possible before connecting them to ventilators. Elbit Systems has developed a system called ‘Life-Can’, to provide cost-effective mechanical ventilation for a wide range of clinical settings, suitable for initial respiration care for sub-acute patients. Life-Can enables a standard manual Bag Valve Mask (BVM) to operate as an automatic-mechanical ventilation machine. This solution meets the British MHRA-RMVS standard and is approved for use by the Israeli Ministry of Health. LifeCan is designed for quick and intuitive use by medical staff and enables fewer care providers to operate several devices simultaneously. By using Life-can with noncritical patients, hospitals reserve the expensive and complicated ventilator machines for the most critically ill patients.
To further assist medical teams in supervising seriously ill COVID-19 patients, the Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DDR&D), in the MOD, IAI, 5 Microsoft, and Soroka Medical Center developed a system that serves as a “medical control room.” Like an aircraft’s cockpit, the system provides updated, comprehensive information on patients’ medical statuses while minimizing medical teams’ exposure to the virus. The data collected by the system is readily available to doctors, who can then allocate resources and manage medical care effectively and efficiently. The global pandemic has challenged governments, companies, and citizens all over the world. Our frontline workers in medical institutions bear the burden of the most pressing and complex issues caused by this virus.
As outlined above, Israel’s defense industries must work hand in hand with local experts to address these challenges and quickly produce relevant technological solutions. Leveraging Israel’s defense industries’ extraordinary capabilities, the International Defense Cooperation Directorate in Israel’s Ministry of Defense (SIBAT) provides the gateway for international partners and enterprises seeking effective, tailored solutions for the most pressing challenges posed by the pandemic. Only through such cooperation and the integration of cutting-edge technology can we overcome this global crisis and return to routine as soon as possible.