Innovative device to remotely monitor student-athletes' health amid the pandemic

Tyto Care’s TytoHome devices enable physicians to remotely examine, diagnose, and monitor patients. 

By Maya Bell

Tyto Care’s TytoHome devices enable physicians to remotely examine, diagnose, and monitor patients. 

Innovative device to remotely monitor student-athletes' health amid the pandemic

By Maya Bell
With student-athletes returning to campus, the University is adding “tele-vigilance” to its multifaceted approach for containing the coronavirus.

As the father of a young daughter with frequent ear infections, Dedi Gilad spent too many hours in a clinic waiting to see the child’s doctor, fretting about their time away from school and work, and dreaming of a better way to diagnose and treat common ailments. 

Now the little device that Gilad, the co-founder of Tyto Care, developed to provide on-demand medical exams is poised to deliver on a big promise to University of Miami student-athletes who are returning to campus amid the pandemic. Should they exhibit even minor symptoms of the highly contagious coronavirus that shut down South Florida in mid-March, or come in contact with anyone who has tested positive, they’ll have almost instant access to a doctor who can examine and monitor them very closely—but from afar—with one of Tyto Care’s TytoHome kits. 

Thanks to the generosity of two donors and the vision of Dr. Roy E. Weiss, the chair of the Miller School of Medicine’s Department of Medicine, 300 of the palm-sized instruments are in the hands of the Athletics Department, which is test-piloting the instruments’ use for the University at large. They will enable UHealth providers to remotely peer down a patient’s throat, inspect their eardrums, listen to their lungs and heart, take their temperature, and even measure the oxygen levels in their blood. 

“We have long been proponents of investing in, developing, and using new tools for telehealth,” said President Julio Frenk. “The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated innovation in this space and Dedi Gilad’s Tyto Care home kits add enormous value—giving us the ability to follow up with members of the University community who are in isolation after testing positive or having been exposed to the virus.”

Blake James, director of athletics, said the University’s nearly 400 student-athletes and 200 trainers and other department staff members are an ideal control group for testing the telehealth devices for all students, faculty, and staff returning in the fall.

“From a lay person’s view, I see this awesome technology as the way medicine is going in the future, and I’m excited that we get to incorporate it into our plan for our kids right now,” James said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to be able to give our athletes and their families greater peace of mind while giving our medical experts a real-life test of how it will work and what the challenges may be.”

Providing peace of mind from three different perspectives—the student’s, their families, and UHealth caregivers—is what Weiss had in mind when he suggested the University become the first to integrate Tytos into its multifaceted plan for the resumption of on-campus classes. As he noted, students and their parents need to know that expert medical care is readily and continuously available if needed. And, caregivers need to know that those who aren’t sick enough for hospitalization aren’t deteriorating in isolation or infecting others when they are monitored.  

“Universities across the nation are focused on the three Ts—testing, tracking, and tracing—which we all must do to safely return students to our campuses,” Weiss said. “But we’re adding what I call the fourth T—tele-vigilance, which will allow us to make sure our student body is healthy and stays healthy.” 

For now, Tyto devices, named for the genus of barn owls that, like most owls, have spectacular long-distance vision, will be issued on an as-needed basis to student-athletes, athletics staffers, or others involved in their activities who meet one of four conditions, but don’t need hospitalization. The conditions are those who test positive for COVID-19; develop a sore throat, fever, or other symptoms suggestive of the virus; have diabetes, asthma, or other underlying medical conditions that put them at significant risk for the disease; or have been exposed to individuals who have tested positive, as well as those who need to be monitored or quarantined because of their travels. 

Student-athletes and staff who receive the devices will be quarantined and trained to perform their own daily health exams and upload the digital results via Tyto’s app to their UHealth electronic medical record, which will be reviewed daily by their team doctor or other health professionals. Alternatively, health care providers can connect to the isolated patients virtually and conduct the exam themselves, seeing the results in real time.  

“It’s an extremely disruptive technology. I wish I had thought of it,” said Luis Feigenbaum, the University’s senior associate athletics director for performance, health and wellness. “The typical workflow of checking up on our athletes or staff would require them to come to campus. So, if we can mitigate the risk to them and to others by limiting the amount of time outside of quarantine and isolation, that would be a tremendous win for everyone.” 

Originally developed and marketed in Israel by Gilad and Tyto Care co-founder Ofer Tzadik to deliver on-demand medical exams and diagnoses to families anywhere and anytime, the FDA-cleared devices entered the U.S. market in 2017. Two years later, TIME magazine included TytoHomes on its annual list of the world’s best inventions. Then in February, when Israel’s Sheba Medical Center was searching for a safe way for its staff to monitor a dozen Israelis who were returned to their homeland from the virus-stricken cruise ship Diamond Princess, Tyto Care found a vital, new calling.

Tyto Care provided the easy-to-use home kits that enabled the isolated passengers to share their daily health status with Sheba physicians, ensuring that none of the infected passengers took a turn for the worse or spread the disease while they improved. Now, most of Israel’s hospitals rely on Tyto devices to remotely examine quarantined patients in hospitals and isolated patients at home. 

“As a dad of two, I can relate to all of the struggles parents face when it comes to their kids' health, especially in the wake of COVID-19,” said Gilad. “As the world grapples with how to re-open safely, giving people—especially students returning to college campuses—unprecedented access to medical care is of utmost importance in mitigating the spread.”  

But long before anyone heard of the novel coronavirus that originated in China at the end of 2019, Israeli’s largest health system began introducing TytoHome kits to families with children who, like Galid’s daughter, suffered from chronic earaches or other common acute ailments. Clalit’s incentive was a 2016 clinical study that showed Tyto Care’s easy-to-use devices minimized emergency room and clinic visits, improved access to care, and eased reservations about using telehealth. 

And that change in attitude, Weiss said, is already emerging as one of the pandemic’s few silver linings. 

“The world is changing and medicine B.C.—before COVID—and medicine P.C.—post COVID—will never be the same,” Weiss said. “The ease of being able to see your doctor with telemedicine is here to stay. There’s no question about that. Patients and doctors are accepting this movement, and COVID is the enzyme that catalyzed it. That will be one of the positives of our experience with COVID—to embrace and enhance telemedicine.”