National Digital Health Program of Israel paving path for Digital Health Innovation

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The Digital Israel is a national initiative being implemented to advance digitalization and services across sectors. The plan encompasses wide range of areas at two levels – core and horizontal. While core areas pertain to different sectors, horizontal areas are applicable across all core areas. Thus examples of core areas are:

   a. Law
   b. Health
   c. e-Gov
   d. Economics and Finance
   e. Schooling and Education
   f. Local Government

And, examples of horizontal areas are:
  a. Technological Infrastructure
  b. Rights Realization
  c. Procurement
  d. Regulation
  e. Human Capital

“We all know that Israel is ranked relatively high in the world vis-à-vis health but what many people do not know is that relative to efficiency we are ranked even higher. We receive more return for every shekel we invest in health.” – Prime Minister Office Director General Eli Groner

Benefits of Digital Health

Use of ICT tools to improve health services, increase efficiency and accelerate innovation in health system is the focus area for National Digital Health Program of Israel. Israeli government in March 2018 approved National Program for promoting Digital Health. The plan shall benefit life-science industries, promote equal access to health services and raise the level of health care in Israel. In the series of steps, government will make available medical database to promote research and entrepreneurship in field of adaptive machine and preventive medicine. An example use case could be use of Big Data tools and algorithms to identify Colon Cancer from blood tests. Clearly such data enable analysis of illness trends in population, and help in identification of risk factors, develop individualized medical care and technological products to aid medical sciences.

Initiatives under National Digital Health Program
  • Establishing a national infrastructure for health researchers in genetics and medical information
  • Improving existing medical registries and systems
  • Israeli participation in digital health initiatives with world health institutions and international financial institutions
  • Increasing export-oriented marketing in digital health solutions and encouraging foreign companies to invest
  • Developing digital academic courses in high tech and information sciences

The Regulatory Process

Ministry of Health vide circulars has addressed some areas of digital health and telemedicine:

a. Criteria for Operating Telemedicine Services (Circular 6/2019): Publishes directives on face-to-face consultation as against telemedicine services. The organization providing telemedicine services are also required to maintain all information relevant to provision of telemedicine services for MOH to inspect as needed.

b. ‘Secondary Use of Medical Data’ (Circular 1/2018) and ‘Collaboration Based on Secondary Use of Medical Data’ (Circular 2/2018): Only de-identified data may be subject of secondary use, unless the prior consent of the patient to use identifiable data was obtained. The medical records with the consent of citizens can only be used for the purpose for which they are stored.

Aspects pertaining to due and proper protection of data and privacy in healthcare sector are governed in accordance with:

 – Protection of Privacy Law, 1981

 – The Patients’ Right Law, 1996

 – Genetic Information Law, 2000

 – National Health Insurance Law, 5754-1994

 – Public Health Ordinance, 1983

 – Medical Equipment Act, 2012

Key emerging technologies in Digital health

The key areas of interest where digital health industry is gaining quite a traction include digital tools and platforms that enable consumers to proactively track, manage and treat their own medical conditions, as well as digital tools for remote monitoring decision support, clinical workflow, diagnostics, patient engagement and assistive devices. Other emerging areas of interest and innovations are Robotics, Telemedicine, Wearables, AI as a Service for addressing diagnostics and judgement, Bioprinting

Towards Digital Health Innovation

The digital healthcare sector is expected to grow to $200 billion globally by 2024. The potential to become a leader in digital health industry is huge for Israel. It already has all essential components figured out – rich database of medical records, strong R&D backbone with over 550 active healthcare startups specializing in AI, machine learning and medical devices. Israel is already a leader in cyber security. Many market leaders – Medtronics, GE Healthcare, Novartis etc. already have presence in Israel. Government through “Digital Health Strategy” planned to be launched in 2021 will develop digital platform, overhaul regulations and support start-ups in positioning Israel as a leader in Digital Health industry.

Further Readings

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