March 25, 2018 | The Israeli cabinet approved a NIS 1 billion (roughly $300 million) national digital health plan first announced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland in January.
Netanyahu said at the time that Israel would team up with multinational software company SAP over the next five years for a program to digitize the personal health records of Israeli citizens, and designed to develop personalized and preventive medicine with the use of AI and machine learning tools for more tailored diagnoses and treatment.
The plan, approved and officially announced on Sunday, includes “technological development, international cooperation, concentrated academic and industrial efforts and regulatory changes to encourage data research,” the Prime Minister’s Office said.
Some of the projects included in the plan, which has raised privacy concerns, are “a national information infrastructure initiative for health researchers in genetics and medical information,” dubbed the Mosaic Initiative, which will help with the “development of medical solutions that are coordinated personally and with in-depth big data analyses”; improving existing medical registries and systems; establishing a digitized sample bank for research purposes; advancing joint projects between the Israeli health system and world health systems; evaluating the establishment of an Israeli national center for genetic sequencing, for the study and analysis of samples; increasing export-oriented marketing in digital health solutions and encouraging foreign companies to invest in Israel; encouraging companies and start-ups to carry out research and development in digital health; and creating information science retraining plans in the digital health field.
Netanyahu welcomed the decision, saying in a statement released by his office that Israel was “doing something of historic significance.”
Israel is “developing the industries of tomorrow… based on a combination of three things: Very large databases, artificial intelligence, and connectivity. This has a greater potential than cyber. It is gigantic, greater than transportation, which is also a gigantic field.”
The digital health field, he said, is “estimated at $6 trillion. Let us assume that we will receive 10 percent of the real market for this potential, not our market, the real global market in the coming years. In my view, this is the maximum estimate. It is a $600 billion market and of it, if we succeed, as we did in cyber and autonomous vehicles and our vehicle industry, we can expect here a significant increase in new products.”