Are we on the verge of the next healthcare revolution?

Drones, organoids and next generation immune therapeutics highlight the healthcare panel at Jerusalem Post Annual Conference.

Healthcare panel (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Healthcare panel
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

The Future of Healthcare Panel.mp4 from Oren Segal on Vimeo.

Drones. Organoids. The ability to predict if someone will develop a mental illness. New drugs that could treat individuals who suffer today.

It sounds like science fiction, but “the future of healthcare” panel at Monday’s Jerusalem Post Annual Conference gave the audience a lot of hope for the next steps in preventive and personalized care.

“I think if you look at the history of drug development... you can see that every now and then there is a wave of innovation that opens up everything, and that has happened to us several times in the last 100 years. I think we are coming to a new wave,” said Dr. Shai Novik, executive chairman of Enlivex Therapeutics, Ltd.

He said that within the next 15 years, the world will “break the glass ceiling” in its ability to treat people with diseases that today might be incurable.

Novik’s Enlivex is one of those companies. It is developing a bold therapy that modulates a type of immune cells to bring back homeostasis in the immune system. Pre-clinical and clinical trials have shown striking success, including 100% recovery of mice with ovarian cancer. A human trial was recently launched at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer. Another one is expected to launch next month.

Hadassah University Medical Center (credit: AVI HAYOUN)Hadassah University Medical Center (credit: AVI HAYOUN)

“It is very easy to cure mice and a little more difficult to cure people,” Novik said. “But we have done that. We have treated a lot of patients with very serious diseases that had a complete cure, which gave us a lot of confidence to move forward.

“I am often asked, ‘What do you think about the chances of this drug saving lives?’ I have been in drug development for 20 years, and this time I can say I am going to be shocked if we are not going to do that. It is the first time I am allowing myself to make that statement.”

New technologies

Novik shared the stage with three other healthcare leaders: Yoni Yagodovsky, director of international relations for Magen David Adom (MDA); Rhoda Smolow, national president of Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America; and Rael Strous, medical director of Mayanei Hayeshua’s Mental Health Center.

Strous explained how his hospital is planning to use big data and artificial intelligence to help personalize medicine, including potentially predicting medication side effects and even the development of certain mental illnesses.

Mayanei Hayeshua was one of Israel’s first paperless hospitals. The facility uses a sophisticated system to evaluate anonymous patient data so clinicians can intervene earlier and understand the progression of mental and medical illnesses. In addition, through the use of wearable devices, the hospital can better manage and treat patients with eating disorders.

“We need a more integrated approach between the mind and the body,” Strous said. “We can have a personalized approach to psychiatric prevention.”

“We need a more integrated approach between the mind and the body. We can have a personalized approach to psychiatric prevention.”

Rael Strous, medical director of Mayanei Hayeshua’s Mental Health Center

Yagodovsky talked not only about MDA’s sophisticated use of geographic information system technology for its world-famous computer-assisted ambulance dispatch system, but also about the recent integration of ultrasound machines in many of its emergency vehicles.

Ultrasound is being used to view the hearts of patients in suspected cardiac arrest or deep shock, for example. Yagodovsky said the technology was rolled out in MDA’s two Medevac helicopters and paramedic supervisor vehicles, but will be installed in all the organization’s Mobile Intensive Care Unit ambulances by year’s end.

He added that MDA is also rolling out drones that will be used to rush defibrillators to remote locations and for use in search and rescue.

Building strong medical teams

It all sounds exciting, but as Smolow noted, the future of healthcare in Israel will only be successful where there are strong teams of doctors and nurses.

In Israel, the shortage of nurses is acute. The state has fewer nurses than any other country in the OECD, and Israel’s doctors are aging out. Hadassah has taken a pivotal role in ensuring better conditions for the country’s medical staff.

“We are creating openings for new nurses and doctors, and creating paths for some nurses to get PhDs because we need nurse educators in our hospitals,” Smolow explained. “We are also working on establishing fellowships and residencies for doctors outside of the country to bring them back to Israel.”

She said, “Israel and all countries are experiencing a big shortage [of medical professionals] and we are hoping to come up with some solutions for that problem.”

Hadassah has been investing in Israeli medical care for more than 100 years, and has over 300,000 members who continue to support the Hadassah Medical Organization to this day.

“We are very proud of the hospitals in Jerusalem,” she said.