An Integrative COVID-19 Research Programme Brings Innovation to COVID-19 Medical Departments in Israel

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created by Prof. Eran Ben-Arye

Integrative Oncology Program, Photo by Lin Medical Center

Like many countries worldwide, Israel is undergoing its 3rd COVID-19 lockdown, with nearly 10,000 newly-diagnosed patients daily. To alleviate the physical and emotional symptoms and concerns among patients and healthcare practitioners in COVID-19 departments (including those in intensive care), an integrative COVID-19 research program was rolled out at the Carmel Medical Center, Haifa, Israel.

This initiative resulted from the collaborative effort between Prof. Eran Ben-Arye, director of the Integrative Oncology Program (IOP), Lin Medical Center Oncology Service, Haifa, Israel; and Dr. Sameer Kassem, head of Internal Medicine and two COVID-19 departments at the Carmel Medical Center. The program takes place within a clinical-research framework, under the implementation of Dr. Orit Gressel-Raz and the IOP team.

Having gone through a comprehensive, 3-year anthroposophic training program, which includes the field of integrative oncology and was facilitated in cooperation with Dr. med. Thomas Breitkreuz, President of IVAA, the IOP team is well-equipped with the required knowledge and skills to provide tailored interventions for both patients and healthcare practitioners involved in the current COVID-19 project.

Treatment Interventions

Interventions often include acupuncture, a variety of manual, including Anthroposophic Medicine modalities, and mind-body-spiritual practices. IOP practitioners provide treatments to patients within ‘contaminated’ areas–while, wearing full protective gear, including two-layered gloves through which they are still able to implement touch and mindfulness therapies.

In parallel, IOP practitioners provide healthcare practitioners with individual 40-minute treatment sessions during the latter’s work hours and in a quiet room adjacent to the COVID-19 department. These treatment sessions are focused on relieving the healthcare practitioners’ most severe concerns, including physical and emotional exhaustion, compassion fatigue, musculoskeletal pain, and insomnia. The sessions are monitored with the use of electrocardiogram (ECG) recordings, which are, in turn, used to analyze heart rate variability–comparing R-R intervals (the time between two heartbeats) before and at the end of the session to ensure treatment effectiveness. This comparative research aspect is performed in collaboration with Dr. med. Jan Vagedes from the Filderklinik in Stuttgart, Germany.

Innovation through Collaboration

The novel, integrative initiative owes its success to the many Anthroposophic Medicine-trained healthcare practitioners who have participated in the teaching and learning process on integrative oncology over the past 3 years. And, of course, the patients and healthcare practitioners who share their invaluable feedback on the treatment sessions despite tremendous strain and emotional exhaustion exacerbated by the present COVID-19 pandemic.