“We use tech to provide care to anyone, anywhere, and at any time”
Dr. Galia Barkai, Director of Sheba Beyond, explains to CTech why telehealth is doing so well and how she found herself leading Israel’s first virtual hospital
“About six years ago, by chance, I joined a multidisciplinary meeting regarding telemedicine. Prof. Yitshak Kreiss invited the heads of various fields to a meeting on the subject in order to hear their thoughts. Prof. Asher Barzilai, head of pediatrics back then, couldn't attend and asked me to replace him,” Dr. Galia Barkai, Director of Sheba Beyond recalls. “I attended the meeting and, on our way out, I said to Prof. Kreiss ‘I don't know what you will decide but I think we need to move forward as this is the future of medicine and because Sheba is always a leader we should be there first and try.’ I got back to my office and I got a call. It was Prof. Kreiss asking me to lead the project. Of course, I said yes. I always try to say yes.”
Sheba Beyond is the first virtual hospital in Israel. It provides advanced medical services by Sheba's leading experts to anyone, anywhere, and at any time, with the help of innovative technologies. There are over 100 virtual clinics in this framework and hundreds of therapists in a variety of fields who hold hundreds of virtual meetings every day.
“The project was initially a failure but we learned a lot. Then, during Covid-19, we were the first hospital to receive in-patients with the disease. Due to its contagious nature, we needed to use technology so we could protect the staff from the virus and it was like a playground for us. We tried various technologies and over time, we got confident. Now, we can provide these same services at home. In addition, we also did a rapid transformation to move out-patients to video clinics. In 2019, we had a few hundred and in 2020 we already had 60,000 video visits per year.”
What made you realize six years ago, pre-Covid 19, that telemedicine would be the next big thing?
“My mother had Parkinson's disease and I realized a few things by treating her. First, hospitalization was terrible and bringing her into the hospital and waiting there took many hours. I work in Sheba and it was even hard for me! Also, there was a lack of communication between her various doctors. In our programs, we look at our patients holistically so that patients receive more information. Also, the tech was an enabler for communication. Video, for example, has a lot of value. When you communicate with patients through video you can see the home of the caregiver and the environment in which they are cared for. This is especially important with children, you can see them in their natural habitat where they are more free.
“I realized that the need and the tech were there. Pre-Covid-19 the world was not ready; however, post Covid, everything changed.”
CTech's She-inspires series follows the stories of various female leaders in Israel. The interviewees hail from various sectors: some work at high level positions in large organizations, some are founders, and some are key players in industries aimed at changing the world for the better. The goal is to learn where they came from, where they are going and how they are bringing inspiration to an entire sector making its way towards a glass ceiling just waiting to burst.
Why do you think so few women make it to the top? Is it that management is not giving them enough opportunities or are women not stepping up?
“I think that in the past women had less opportunities, but today, this is not the case. Looking at myself, I can say that I try to always say yes. Sometimes, later, I get frightened but I always make an effort and this way, I learned that I can do more than I thought. Also, as a woman, I didn't believe in myself as much as I do now. Only just recently have I learned to say no if something takes me out of focus or doesn’t fit in with my vision. As a woman you should think big, think that you can do anything. Don't be afraid to step up and dream. Later on, if it doesn’t suit you - don't be afraid to say no."