The coronavirus emergency has placed an unprecedented amount of pressure on medical staff in hospitals all over the world. In order to help professionals who have been re-assigned to care for coronavirus patients, Israeli company Simbionix, the simulator division of 3D Systems Corporation, has launched a special project to train them for free in performing and analyzing lung ultrasounds.
Highly contagious, COVID-19 has dramatically inflated the number of patients who require hospitalization and even intensive care for respiratory-related symptoms and often decimated the staff caring for them, either infecting doctors and nurses or forcing them to enter quarantine.
Lung-ultrasound has proven to be one of the keys in the effective diagnosis of people infected with the virus in order to assess their situation and the best way to treat them and this is the area where Airport City-based Simbionix 3D Systems has stepped in, as Tal Avziz, director of simulation imaging at the company, told The Jerusalem Post.
The project was developed in cooperation with medical experts in Israel and abroad including Dr. Lior Fuchs, member of Ben-Gurion University’s Faculty of Health Sciences and senior physician at the Intensive Internal Care Unit at the Soroka University Medical Center, and Dr. Shirley Friedman, a senior physician in the intensive pediatric care unit and head of the Point of Care Ultrasound (PoCUS) service at the Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv.
“We are specialized in virtual reality-based simulation solutions for the medical industry for different specialties, from endovascular to gastro, in order to provide computer-based virtual experiences to enhance medical training and patient outcome,” Avziz explained. “When the COVID-19 crisis emerged, we started to look into how we could offer assistance to the medical community with our products.”
Avziz explained that by the end of February it had become clear from the experience of hospitals in countries more severely hit, like China and Italy, that lung ultrasound performed at the bedside of identified infected people was essential to determine the state of the disease and therefore the needs of the patients regarding treatment, including whether their respiratory system required ventilation.
“However, lung ultrasound which has become an important part of the triage of COVID-19 patients, is challenging and requires proficiency both in order to perform the procedure and in order to read the results,” he pointed out.
Within two weeks, the company developed a unit providing medical staff with the training to achieve the necessary proficiency within a few hours.
The training module was released to all hospitals which were already customers of Simbionix across Israel, the US, Europe and China at the end of March.
In addition, the company also created a mobile unit project that has offered the virtual reality-based training free of charge to several medical centers in Israel led by a team of specially-trained sixth-year medical students from Ben-Gurion University, whose Faculty of Health Sciences has incorporated PoCUS to the toolkits taught to all its medical students.
The team has already visited centers such as Soroka, Carmiel, Hasharon and Nahariya instructing the staff participating on matters such as the disinfecting protocol for ultrasound machines, what they should expect when they look at a COVID-19 patient’s ultrasound scan and how the procedure can be integrated into the hospitals’ protocol.
“A skilled point-of-care ultrasound scan has become a critical part of the COVID-19 diagnostic protocol. The student volunteers who joined the effort allow the professors, who are physicians at Soroka and other medical centers, to continue their clinical work at a lesser risk of contracting the disease,” Fuchs commented according to a Simbionix’s release.