Israeli Digital Health Industry is Set to Make the Corona a Mega Opportunity
Mega threat – or mega opportunity? The coronavirus crisis will undoubtedly influence our future, and the digital health industry may experience its results in unexpected ways. Major startups within the Israeli digital health industry have discovered new opportunities to test-field their concepts and products.
Med.Talk, a podcast series produced by Takeda Israel and presented by Ms Liat Alon, from Takeda, hosted representatives of three leading Israeli startups, Datos, Biobeat and TytoCare. They were joined by Naama Baor Ecosystem Development Manager at HealthIL, to discuss their perspectives.
Listen to the full Med.Talk podcast (in Hebrew) here
DATOS: COVID-19 Telemedicine Solution
Uri Bettesh, Founder and CEO at Datos Health, which was assigned to remotely monitor all Israeli Corona home quarantined patients. The monitoring plan includes self-reporting of vital signs (such as body temperature, blood pressure, oxygen saturation) and online response to a daily survey to follow up other COVID-19 conditions like shortness of breath or coughing. The aggregated reports are sent to the Israeli Ministry of health providing them with a comprehensive view of all COVID-19 positive and quarantined patients, analyzed by severity and location homes.
"We monitor non-measurable symptoms, such as cough, headaches or other symptoms like shortness of breath, in addition Datos is monitoring clinical metrics, such as heart rate, blood pressure and spores. There are two key challenges considerations: one is the scalable issue, which means how many patients we will need to bring to instru<mentation, while the other is the issue of device sanitation. That is the logistics of the devices, from dispatch center to home -is a process that is not normally easy at all."
BIOBEAT: Remote Non-Invasive Complex Metrics
Another Israeli startup, Biobeat has developed a monitoring system that utilizes sensors on a sticker or wristwatch configuration, with the sticker configuration being more relevant to patients, hospitalization or pre-hospital care, and the wristwatch targeting chronic patients monitoring. Sales started before the Corona crisis impacted, and contacts had already been built with various hospitals and HMOs; and clinical trials identified scenarios for other medical uses. The technology wirelessly facilitates the monitoring of sixteen different parameters, and the data is transmitted in real time to the clinician, whether doctor, clinic, or hospital staff. Metrics include blood pressure, pulse, breathing, temperature and heart parameters. It handles many metrics, some of them complex, which until now have needed invasive monitoring. Biobeat has also participated in a trial monitoring flu patients for the US Department of Health.
Dr. Arik Eisenkraft, Chief Medical Officer at Biobeat Technologies, told Med.Talk that "When the coronavirus arrived, we immediately appreciated that our system could deal with it. Just think about it: you put a sensor on the patient and, from that moment on, all the metrics are automatically transmitted to the monitor, dramatically reducing the need for direct contact between the caregiver and the patients themselves and without compromising the given treatment. In addition, huge amounts of information are collected and assimilated. This makes it possible to anticipate whether the patient will deteriorate, leading to greater awareness and earlier interventions. Furthermore, it also allows to understand better how this disease is behaving."
Biobeat received inquiries from several countries, who indicated they would be prepared to permit the acceleration of regulatory processes, which usually take many months. "Here, we were really surprised that, within two weeks, we could obtain approvals that we did not think would be possible in months," said Dr Eisenkraft.
TytoCare: To Be Examined by Your Virtual Doctor
Another Israeli startup, TytoCare, has developed a platform allowing the patient to “meet” a virtual doctor – extending to a physical examination of the patient, something that is not normally possible in standard video-conference. The doctor is provided with all the tools he is used to having to hand in his clinic: a stethoscope for listening to heart sounds, lungs and the digestive system, an otoscope for ear examination, a contactless thermometer, a skin camera and the means to carry out a throat examination: thus most of the regular examination carried out by a primary care physician is covered.
Already installed at Clalit Sick Fund, Israeli largest HMO, prior to the Corona outbreak, TytoCare is experiencing a dramatic pickup in demand.
Eyal Baum, Director of Strategic Accounts at TytoCare, told Liat Alon from TytoCare, "Most doctors are very satisfied with TytoCare, especially doctors who are accustomed to doing tele-medicine or video-based medicine. They appreciate being able to listen to the lungs, to see a good picture of the throat or a sharp image of the skin, thus leading to the necessary confidence to provide full treatment. Often, doctors are a somewhat hesitant about taking responsibility for remote diagnosis, and provide only some counseling, saying patients should come to the clinic – but now doctors are finding the confidence to provide the full treatment, including prescription, referrals - all that is needed.
HealthIL Believe There is a Wider Opportunity
Naama Baor, Ecosystem Development Manager at the HealthIL (the Digital Health community by The Israel Innovation Institute, Ministry of Economy and Ministry of Social Equality) sees the coronavirus crisis as a major opportunity: "Health organizations realize they have a massive range of needs, and this is just the time, when travel and personal visits are discouraged or forbidden, to respond effectively to their patients - remotely. So we look forward to speedy FDA approvals and, here in Israel, we see expedite processes related to the Israel Innovation Authority grants specifically around COVID-19. There really are many opportunities here. It's an amazing time to operate in the field of health. We are also looking at many ventures that are not necessarily in the field of healthcare. Many technologies that were originally developed for non-medical uses, and not tested clinically can now also be adopted to support the healthcare system. It may be a shuttle service to work that requires a special fit now, because nurses, doctors and caregivers need to go to the hospitals, and they can't do it from home in some cases. In fact, here in the field of logistics, in transportation and in other areas, there are several opportunities to be exploited. We receive many inquiries from our health-care partners. Accelerators, incubators and academies: the opportunities today are multiplying. Hackathons are being called online, and that is being opened for a special research. We see that our community and ecosystem are alive and kicking, and that this is our time to pool resources. As a result, we have come up with a site: CounterCorona that brings together all the opportunities and challenges that exist today".
Dr. Arik Eisenkraft sees these events as "A truly extraordinary opportunity, rather than a threat. If, at first, the threat was mainly whether suppliers could bring parts that we use to assemble the sensors, etc., we see that there really is no real threat here. They are active; they work and can certainly provide what is needed. And the opportunity is really very extensive, both in Israel and around the world. And we see that in terms of production capabilities and product supply, problems are not expected here. There is another problem. We did not expect the pandemic, and we do not keep sensors in stocks. So, if suddenly there is demand from all over the world that would normally cause delays, we have the systems, both in the country and in the world that can get things moving. We are prepared for it. We are waiting to receive the orders, and to perform on them."
Eyal Baum, of TytoCare also reports soaring demand. "Most of Tyto's customers today are in the United States. We even have a branch in the United States and have close to 100 customers there using Tyto. Of course, the United States is a major market, but also we are already active in other markets, such as France, Switzerland, England, Italy, Spain and Thailand. We see fast-growing orders and take-up in all these markets. We were not prepared to supply tens of thousands of units, like the army for the moment of the war. But war has definitely arrived, not just for Tyto, but for the whole world of telemedicine. The remote-medicine world will not return to what it was, from perspective of both healthcare organizations and doctors, as well as of course for consumers and patients. There is a now a clear understanding of the need for remote medicine solutions, and the realization has arrived that it must be part of mainstream medicine. What we are currently experiencing is will, indeed, establish remote medicine as an integral part of mainstream medicine. It is already happening!"
Based on her meetings with several industry leaders, medical professionals and entrepreneurs, Liat Alon, from Takeda Israel, believes that the Corona crisis will change the medical scene forever. "It will never go back to what it was. The very fact that such a wide public is experimenting and experiencing remote medicine services will make them feel secure and willing to continue this practice even once the pandemic is over. There seems to be a unanimous understanding that the longer the crisis goes – the better results it will bring to the industry".