‘Artificial Intelligence is changing medicine’: Israel’s Director of Digital Health, Esti Shelly

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Israel’s Director of Digital Health, Esti Shelly, is in India for the launch of the Global Innovation Index (GII 2019), in which her country is expected to be ranked among the top 10. Israel was ranked 11th in 2018, and 17th in 2017, while India rose to 57th in GII in 2018 from 60th the year before. The ranking judges countries on at least 80 indicators of innovation, including political environment, research, infrastructure and business.
GII 2019 focus this year is on health innovation, which is integral to Ayushman Bharat, India’s health protection scheme that offers cashless hospitalisation cover of up to ~5 lakh to at least 10 million families. Shelly, who met her counterparts at National Health Authority and Niti Aayog to share Israel’s innovations in health technology, medicine and research, spoke to Sanchita Sharma on how transformative innovations in healthcare can fuel economic and social growth.
What role does digital health play in Israel?
The ministry of health has set up HUBriut (health hub in Hebrew) to promote digital transformation in healthcare by building partnerships between industry, health sector and academia. We are also helping industry meet regulations, and take knowledge and innovation from university to industry. Last year, the Cabinet approved digital health as a growth engine project. Under the project, the government funds companies to do pilots in hospitals. Israel has 1,000 start-ups on medical devices and digital health… We have approved 43 pilots in more than 20 hospitals.
How do digital innovations improve outcomes?
A new project starting by end of the year will make sure the right imaging test is done on the right patient at the right time. There are international guidelines, but these are in books that nobody reads. We are working with IT companies to bring a decision-support system to help physicians doing, say, a CT Scan, to decide whether it is needed, what are the indications, what has changed that warrants a scan, etc. Providing digital support for decisionmaking is more efficient than trying to educate thousands of doctors. Another example is a start-up for CT exams that uses image processing algorithms to look at scans before the patient leaves the examination room and prioritise cases that need immediate attention. It’s called AIDOC and is already in use. We’re also working on big data, policy and research on the secondary use of clinical data, developing technology platforms to connect hospitals, and telemedicine.
What are the challenges in going fully digital?
One is legacy IT systems that are difficult to change to digital apps. When you don’t have the legacy IT systems, you have the privilege to go straight to apps.
What’s the next big thing in digital health?
Artificial Intelligence is changing how medicine works. Physicians will be able to practise personalised medicine. Digital technology provides the opportunity to bridge gaps but it can also increase inequalities.

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