The rapid digitalization of the world has infused our societies with an abundance of data. In the healthcare industry, advancements in medical technology enable more testing opportunities and generate billions of data points for individual patients, allowing healthcare providers to harness such information for more personalized care.
The recognition of data’s importance in shaping the future of care also highlights another challenge: seeking a systematic, comprehensive approach to organizing such numerous data and make them easily accessible for healthcare providers.
This is where the Israeli healthcare data startup MDClone saw an opportunity to innovate. Founded in 2016 and based in Beersheba, MDClone developed a platform, ADAMS, to organize and democratize healthcare data in real-time to allow for access, analytics, and research, without infringing upon security and patient privacy.
“We aspire to enable healthcare providers to do more in the data environments they manage or maintain, helping them solve challenges associated with clinical variability,” says MDClone’s Chief Commercial Officer, Josh Rubel, in an interview with NoCamels.
“These challenges include understanding the optimal way to care for a patient, engage in research advocacy, learning about new vaccines, and conducting collaborative innovation projects with other providers, which are all time-consuming data projects from the start to end,” he explains.
The technology has proved promising and the company has attracted prominent investors, raising over $40 million to date with health-tech VC fund aMoon, OrbiMed Israel Partners, a Tel Aviv-based seed-stage venture capital firm, and American VC firm Lightspeed Venture Partners.
“MDClone is resolving one of the greatest challenges in this emerging era of health-tech: centralizing, optimizing and enabling quick and easy access to health data, while preserving privacy and compliance,” said Dr. Yair Schindel, co-founder and managing partner of aMoon, when MDClone closed on its $26 million Series B round in 2019.
MDClone’s advanced tech platform
Behind MDClone’s ADAMS platform to expedite resource-intensive data projects lies its synthetic data technology, which allows instant access to data while maintaining patient privacy.
Rubel tells NoCamels that as the healthcare industry is strictly governed by regulations and requirements to ensure privacy, acts to share and use healthcare data would be subject to stringent reviews. And while this ensures security, it also prolongs the process for providers to access the data.
To enable timely access to the data while complying with regulatory requirements, MDClone adopted on-demand synthetic data that generates artificial datasets almost identical to real-world data without actual patients, while replicating the statistical characteristics in the real world.
This technology allows the creation of a series of “fictional” patients in a new dataset, which mirrors the correlations and aggregate trends in reality. By extracting the mathematical properties of real data, MDClone’s platform preserves the overall data features necessary for healthcare providers to reference while making decisions to care for patients.
“Imagine having a task to understand reactions from a cohort of diabetes patients to one type of drug versus another,” Rubel suggests. “The outcome analysis is predicated upon data information of variables including the patient’s age, hospitalization history, demographics, etc., and you could rely on MDClone’s derivative dataset that tells the same story as the original cohort while maintaining patient anonymity.”
Global impact through collaboration
Another key component to MDClone’s approach to advancing digital healthcare is its strong dedication to bringing forth global impact by partnering with healthcare providers internationally. MDClone’s data democratization effort has now been recognized by many international providers, including the Ottawa Hospital, the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, and the National Institute of Health and the Veterans Affairs Health Administration in the US.
MDClone based its collaboration model upon a prototype that began at home in Israel — a joint effort with the ARC Center for Digital Innovation at the Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv.
The Sheba Medical Center was one of MDClone’s first clients three years ago. In the partnership, MDClone assisted the hospital to aggregate their disparate data into one unified platform that would allow medical researchers to use the data for novel research.
In addition to broadening the hospital’s research capacity, MDClone’s endeavors also helped the ARC Center become involved in international engagements.
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“From startups and life-science companies to healthcare systems around the world, MDClone’s platform allowed diverse participants to interact with the Sheba data environment and explore with the Sheba team,” Rubel adds. “Sheba becomes a magnet attracting other healthcare systems to work together, which forms a compelling living laboratory for healthcare research and innovation.”
Following the success of building and deploying MDClone’s platform within Israel, the company decided to build upon its “Sheba model” and expand its operations in North America in 2018.
One of MDClone’s notable collaborations was with the VHA Innovation Ecosystem, a division of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) starting two years ago. Rubel highlights that after meeting with the VA innovation team during a visit to Israel and having conversations to define a scope around the collaboration, MDClone realized that the VA was grappling with the same problem that health systems have in general — data organization and timely access.
MDClone and the VHA Innovation Ecosystem finalized their agreement late last year to secure access to clinical data so that the VA can better understand and improve the health of the more than nine million veterans it serves.
According to the announcement, the initial collaboration with MDClone is centered around suicide prevention, chronic disease management, precision medicine, health equity, and COVID-19. Practitioners can tackle issues like suicide by identifying leading indicators and proactively intervening with patients most at risk, the parties explained.
Ziv Ofek, founder and CEO of MDClone said in the statement that “with one of the largest medical databases in the world, the VHA [Veterans Health Administration] requires enterprise-scale tools to explore data, innovate, and improve patient care. MDClone’s dynamic environment will help VA staff deliver on their mission to provide the best healthcare services to veterans across the US.”
Last month, MDClone was selected as a 2021 Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum alongside four other Israeli companies (among 100 global firms). The annual list honors initiatives that aim to solve global challenges with cutting-edge technology.
Taking medical data forward
MDClone has also received skepticism from customers and other stakeholders in the healthcare industry as the regulatory requirements over its synthetic data technology are still subject to change based on the performance of the technology.
The company’s previous approach had been choosing to partner with mainly academic institutions given their readily available resources to conduct validation studies and offer insights into further optimizing MDClone’s platform.
However, Rubel says that MDClone is looking forward to seeing updates to the regulatory framework to accommodate new technologies and contribute to the promotion of their acceptance within the industry.
“Our job is to become a good steward which also enables other healthcare providers to think about patient security in an evolving way,” he says.
In this past year, the pandemic has also offered valuable lessons to MDClone and highlighted its path to future developments.
“What the pandemic demonstrated is a need for more real-time access to data,” Rubel tells NoCamels. “We started getting requests from various members of the industry to help with data organization, normalization, and harmonization.”
MDClone aims to continue being an active player in fostering growth in the health systems and their adjacencies through global cooperation and joint projects.
“The need for the technology is greater today than it was a year ago, and we expect it to be more important a year from now than it is today,” Rubel concludes.