The hospital of the future: Sheba Medical Center shares innovation focus during COVID-19

Read this discussion with Eyal Zimilchman, deputy director, chief medical officer and chief innovation officer of Sheba Medical Center. Originally published in the MATTER blog. 
By Steven Collens, CEO, MATTER

Over the last few weeks, we have hosted private roundtables for a number of health systems around the country. Eyal Zimilchman, deputy director, chief medical officer and chief innovation officer of Sheba Medical Center, joined us for a recent conversation. 

Sheba is the largest hospital in Israel and has been named one of the top 10 hospitals in the world. Based on his presentation of their response to COVID-19, it’s obvious why: The level of innovation is unlike anything we’ve seen, and represents what I hope is the way hospitals of the future work to create, adopt and harness technologies to improve the patient experience. MATTER has been a proud partner of Sheba’s since 2017, and we are looking forward to working with them and Kaleidoscope Health Ventures to develop an innovation site in Chicago in the coming years. 

Sheba helps hospital staff create their own solutions and build startups within the hospital, and also gives outside startups the opportunity to work alongside Sheba’s clinicians. According to Eyal, they are now in “full battle mode” to fight COVID-19: All other projects have been put to the side to focus on the virus. They are both creating new solutions and repurposing solutions and technologies they were already deploying. 

Below are four of the key areas Sheba is focusing on in their COVID-19 innovation game plan. 


One of Sheba’s main focus areas is to deliver high-level medical care while minimizing exposure and physical contact within the hospital. To do so, they have created a zero-touch, comprehensive toolkit of telemedicine solutions focused on communications, monitoring and physical examination. 


One of their communications solutions, Uniper, turns common TVs into communications stations that allow hospital staff to communicate by video very easily. Sheba is utilizing this tool for every form of communication: between staff and patients, patients and families and patients and other patients. 

Sheba’s monitoring solution, EarlySense, has been used in hospitals for years to alert staff when a patient is deteriorating based on respiration status. According to Eyal, it became clear to them early on in the pandemic that this tool they had helped develop years ago would be vital to them now. Sheba is now using EarlySense as an alert system to identify COVID-19 patients whose symptoms are mild, but whose condition is deteriorating, so that they can take the patient to a higher level of care immediately. 

Physical Examination 
Sheba has created a “tele-ICU” together with Clew to enable doctors to perform a variety of tasks, which they would usually need to be physically present for, from a safe distance. One tool, Tyto, allows physicians to physically examine patients remotely. They are also working with InTouch Health to use telepresence robots that are located by the patient’s bedsides so that doctors can speak to them from another room. Tele-ICU allows for high-quality, minimal-contact care within the hospital, and their relationship with Datos also makes it easier for Sheba to remotely take care of patients in their own homes. 

Contact screening 

The health system is also using thermal screening to ensure that visitors and staff coming into the hospital don’t have the virus. If a staff member is flagged and tests positive, Sheba uses contact screening tools from a company called AnyVision to identify anyone that the staff member was in contact with, so they can go into isolation. 


Sheba is working with several other hospitals in Israel to build a COVID-19 registry for all of their patients. They’ve provided free access to the registry for 20 teams of data scientists across the country, and are working with them to distill key insights from the data. Sheba is the only hospital system in Israel providing free access to their data. “This is not about making money,” said Eyal. “The idea is to collaborate with as many people as possible to understand and beat this disease that has puzzled us in many ways.” 


Sheba is working with startups to create more accessible and reliable testing solutions to diagnose COVID-19 without the resource burdens imposed by PCR or immunoassay systems. One project showing early success is a breath test to diagnose COVID-19 within three minutes, at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods. 

Sheba is also working with a company called Vocalis Health to use voice analysis to predict if a patient is about to deteriorate. For patients with COVID-19 who are at home, they simply download the app and speak to it once a day. It then alerts them if it believes their condition is going to deteriorate so that they can go to the hospital. 

We are seeing unprecedented healthcare innovation. New solutions are being adapted at a rate never seen before and that we likely won’t see again. Whereas before, collaboration with clinicians and innovation teams could often be a slow process, clinicians are adapting new tools quickly and helping identify where new solutions are needed. 

“Some of the challenges around innovating still exist,” said Eyal, “but these changing times and the changing environment create a unique opportunity for us.” 

I have always been impressed with the velocity and scope of Sheba’s innovation capabilities. Their ability to work with innovators — both within and outside their walls — to design, develop and deploy solutions is simply unparalleled. It is a model, I hope, that other healthcare systems will be able to learn from and emulate. 

Interested in reading more insights on how health system innovation leaders are tackling COVID-19? Read about three focus areas for health system innovation leaders here.


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