News and Events

Rambam Harnesses the Power of Zoom to Care for Cancer Patients

Publication Date: 6/4/2020 10:00 AM

Zoom has recently been integrated into the arsenal of tools used by the Hematology and Bone Marrow Transplantation Institute at Rambam Health Care Campus, a leading center in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with malignant and non-malignant blood disorders.

Gelb Sakharov leads a Zoom session for patients in Rambam’s Hematology and Bone Marrow Transplantation Institute. Photography: RHCC.Gelb Sakharov leads a Zoom session for patients in Rambam’s Hematology and Bone Marrow Transplantation Institute. Photography: RHCC.

Integrative and alternative medical services are routinely provided to cancer patients to help them deal with the side-effects accompanying cancer treatments, to alleviate discomfort, and to facilitate a more rapid recovery. Using Zoom, the medical staff of the Hematology and Bone Marrow Transplantation Institute have now devised a new initiative to provide their patients with the care they need during these unusually challenging times. Behind this initiative is a large multidisciplinary team that is equipped to provide patients with a wide array of resources to maintain and improve their wellbeing, even during a pandemic.

Within the framework of this new service, patients participate online in small groups or individual activities led by expert healthcare providers. Patients can receive advice and guidance on how to deal with the side-effects of radiological treatments, chemotherapy, biological drug therapy, and bone marrow transplants. They also receive support with regard to physical activity and exercise, occupational therapy, meetings with spiritual advisors, nutritional guidance, and meetings with psychologists and social workers. In addition, these patients will soon be able to learn about the benefits of acupuncture, touch therapy, and much more.

The goal is to ease the burden on members of high risk populations who may be unable to leave their homes, and to provide them with online services for the ongoing support and healing they need.

Zoom meetings were recently held on the topic of physical activity and exercise. Participating patients were able to perform exercise routines in front of their computers. The activities were directed by Gelb Sakharov, an experienced Rambam nurse in the Blood Coagulation Disorders Service who is also a personal trainer. "Physical activity is like a drug," said Sakharov about the rationale for the program. "Exercise maintains and improves physical functioning, and reduces adverse side effects, pain, and nausea. And even more than all of this – it improves quality of life and raises the morale of patients who need to confront many challenges." Sakharov further explained that there are numerous studies demonstrating that exercise reduces the recurrence of disease.

Over the last several weeks, the Zoom approach has been gathering momentum and has received an enthusiastic response from physicians. “It is easy to write a prescription and follow lab results,” said Dr. Yariv Carasso, an attending physician in the Hematology and Bone Marrow Transplantation Institute and one of the initiators of the program. “However, we can’t just treat the disease; we must care for the patient, their quality of life, and their ability to cope with the disease. We have created a protective cushion based on the extensive resources available at Rambam to address the needs of our patients. We have no doubt that these activities are having a positive impact on them.”

According to Dr. Noa Lavi, Director of the Myeloma Service at Rambam’s Hematology and Bone Marrow Transplantation Institute, integrative medicine is a growing and evolving area. “Cancer patients often become chronic patients requiring long-term care. Over the course of years, they sometimes experience side-effects from the medications and treatments they undergo, and the lion’s share of coping with their illness is dealing with these side-effects,” said Dr. Lavi. Integrative medicine provides a whole world of opportunities for dealing with these issues. According to Dr. Lavi, “preparing the body for treatment and improving quality of life following treatment is becoming an essential and inextricable part of the care we provide our oncology patients.”