Startup nations | Israel embraces digital innovations in health care

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The health care industry was never known for its quick adoption of digital innovations, but a big change came in 2010 when the Affordable Care Act was signed into law by President Barack Obama. This led to a radical transition in the health care industry’s business model, away from patient volume and toward patient outcomes. For the first time, more pressure was put on providers to keep patients healthier and find more efficient treatments rather than encouraging return visits. This has led to an unparalleled quest for innovative digital health technologies.

During the first nine months of 2014, digital health companies worldwide raised $5 billion, almost double the amount raised in 2013. Unsurprisingly, Silicon Valley led the country in digital health technology funding last year, with 62 deals for a total of $948 million.

Israeli is a world leader in digital health innovation and technology. This month, the Israeli Economic Mission to the West Coast and the BIRD Foundation (Israel–U.S. Binational Industrial Research and Development) have organized a road show of nine Israeli digital health companies to Silicon Valley to meet investors and strategic partners, such as prominent hospitals and giant tech companies. The companies offer everything from noninvasive solutions using radio frequency-based technology for monitoring patients with congestive heart failure, to platforms for personalized health information based on a patient’s unique medical profile.

Included in this delegation is Scio, powered by Consumer Physics — a handheld molecular sensor developed to give people a portable and affordable means to examine their physical environment. This device can instantly determine the molecular makeup of anything from food to medications. The information, stored on the cloud, will contribute to the world’s first “database of matter,” which will have huge implications in a number of fields.

Also in attendance will be Medisafe, a smart medicine management system that will allow family and caregivers to be alerted if a patient misses a dosage. According to Medisafe, which was created by two brothers whose father accidentally took a double dose of insulin, 50 percent of Americans take medication regularly, but only half take it as prescribed. This leads to hundreds of thousands of people treated or hospitalized due to skipped or incorrect dosages.

Another member of the delegation is Tytocare, a mobile health platform startup that allows users to perform a physical self-examination and get a remote diagnosis without visiting a physician. Though the device does give its own accurate diagnosis, data is also sent to a professional health practitioner for analysis. By making a cutting-edge and easy-to-use diagnostic tool available at home, Tytocare is aiming to reduce waiting times for doctors and ease the burden on the health care system.

Acquisition of the month

Just a few weeks after opening a new facility in Herzliya, Apple acquired LinX, an Israeli camera-tech startup that develops cameras optimized for mobile devices. LinX enables a wide range of effects, such as 3D picture capture, and solves many of the challenges of taking photographs on mobile phones, such as low light, color accuracy, focusing and shutter lag. Previous Apple acquisitions of Israeli startups include flash-memory maker Anobit and motion-sensing company PrimeSense.

Apple’s growing number of acquisitions, along with the expansion of its Israel R&D center and addition of up to 250 new employees in the country, are all signs of how the tech titan is committed to growing its presence in the startup nation. Apple now has around 700 employees in Israel.

Apple CEO Tim Cook visited in late February when the company’s new center of excellence was formally opened, taking the opportunity to meet Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who discussed Apple’s growing operations in the country.

Gili Ovadia is the S.F.-based Israeli consul for economic affairs to the West Coast.