How AI Is Creating a Third Wave of 'Digital Healthcare'

We are entering the era of predictive medicine, where AI is being used to analyze medical data culled from sensors and devices. We still don’t know the impact of all this, but the possibilities are varied and complex

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Man testing glucose level with a digital glucometer
Man testing glucose level with a digital glucometerCredit: Shutterstock
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Some parts of the developed world, including Israel, are entering a third wave of digital healthcare. The first wave, which is still unfolding, is about digitizing existing processes like clinical workflow. The second wave, itself also just unfolding, is telemedicine – remote doctor-patient interaction. And while these are starting to gather pace, we’re also entering a third wave, a merging of quantified ‘self data’ gathered from medical sensors and fitness devices, and artificial intelligence – moving from mere data collection to connecting our data to the data of others like us through medical data networking as well as DNA referencing. All of this is then put through AI programs for insight extraction and predictive medicine.

The challenge is to figure out what to do with the data so that it’s meaningful (AI). We must improve the chances that this data turns into services and products that can benefit humanity (and get approved by the FDA), share this information efficiently (perhaps through the Blockchain), all the while protecting patient privacy (Cyber and data protection compliance).

These are huge challenges, but Israel is very well positioned to ride this third wave of digital health. Start-Up Nation Finder is tracking some 400 currently active digital health companies in Israel, adding just over 300 companies over a period of seven years.

A maturing sector

Funding into the sector increased by a whopping 30% in 2017 for a total of $333M. In the first six months of 2018, the sector attracted $270M in funding, a 60% increase over the same period in 2017. Investment rounds in 2018 are also significantly larger: $11M, compared to $8M in 2017.

The sector is clearly maturing from a technology hub into a rich ecosystem, building upon a combination of artificial intelligence solutions, HMO data spanning over two decades, and an array of government and healthcare provider initiatives announced during the last year.

A notable subsector is Assistive Devices, which brings computer vision and machine learning to the disabilities market. Although it is relatively small, it performed extremely well, demonstrating the enormous potential of the Digital Health domain when it is less restricted by regulatory and clinical barriers.

These factors, together with the global entry of cybersecurity and blockchain into healthcare, fields in which Israel has a very strong presence and capabilities, position Israel as an even more important player in the global Digital Health sector.

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