As the national EMS organization in Israel, and the only ambulance service and blood bank mandated by law, Magen David Adom (MDA) is at the forefront of the country’s fight against the coronavirus.
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Known for its flexibility and ability to adapt quickly to changing situations after gaining extensive experience in wars and terror attacks, MDA was asked by the Ministry of Health to handle testing for the coronavirus. The process includes a special dispatch to handle all the calls regarding the testing, sending EMTs and paramedics to take the tests from patients’ homes, and delivering the tests to dedicated labs.
In collaboration with the Ministry of Health and other relevant health organizations, MDA recently built a new stand-alone technological system to address the thousands of calls requesting information and tests for Coronavirus. According to MDA Chief Information Officer Ido Rosenblatt, without the investments and developments made in information systems and communications infrastructure, the State of Israel would not have been able to respond to the coronavirus epidemic today as it did.
In the past week, MDA has received a record number of 80,000 calls per day, totaling 260,000-plus calls. MDA normally receives 5,000 calls per day. MDA created a new system over the course of several days to cope with the record numbers of calls.
Requests for coronavirus tests which works parallel to MDA’s regular calls and activity unrelated to coronavirus, are met with an average waiting call time of just one minute and 21 seconds. The requests are sent to the patient’s medical provider, and then onto a regional doctor for a second approval.
If approved — a process which takes an average of 24 hours — the request is sent to one of 1,200 MDA volunteers and 500 paramedics conducting the tests around the country, who arrives to the patient’s home, thereby reducing hospital load and risk of widespread infection. The test is then sent to a laboratory, with the Ministry of Health informing the patient of the results, in just 48 hours after the time of the test.
“Our programmers are working around the clock to improve and add features to our new system,” said Rosenblatt.
“We are training our volunteers to answer phones using the new software in the quickest and most efficient way possible.” The system to manage the logistics of people doing the actual testing is being improved daily, added Eli Jafe, MDA Deputy Director General.
Built in partnership with Cisco communication systems, Cellcom, Simply Smart Com and Argocom, the new system can be used in times of need in future as well, be it war, natural disaster or any other crisis.
The coronavirus has proven, Rosenblatt said, the value of Magen David Adom’s advanced technology and long-term planning. Though the organization had not anticipated an event of this magnitude, which is unlike the most difficult times the country has known outside of war, it is thanks to the information technology system and staff that MDA has been able to respond effectively and efficiently.
According to Omri Levy, MDA’s deputy CTO, as Magen David Adom prepares for home tests, at the corporate level, MDA is also preparing for staff to work from home, using computer applications”
Rosenblatt noted that MDA has also developed a special area in its free My MDA app which includes the full details of each patient, medical information and a coronavirus questionnaire that offers case-by-case advice based on one’s answers.
According to Rosenblatt, the systems used to deal with the crisis were developed as a lesson from the Second Lebanon War. “God forbid there is another war or another military operation, we will pass it easily, because there is nothing that can resemble the loads that exist today,” Rosenblatt said.