Health IT

Israel introduces big data project to make citizens’ health records available to researchers

Israel plans to invest 1 billion shekels (about $287 million) in a new project that will make its nearly 9 million citizens’ health data digitally available to researchers. Though participation is optional, some have voiced privacy concerns regarding the initiative.

Earth planet with global routes and light dots representing global connection and communication.

Israel plans to invest 1 billion shekels (about $287 million) in a new project that will make its nearly 9 million citizens’ health data digitally available to researchers and private companies, according to Reuters.

Israel will rely on its extant digital health database of records, which includes more than the files of 98 percent of the population, reports The Times of Israel.

presented by

Participation in the undertaking is voluntary for citizens.

“This is a major asset and we want to make it accessible to researchers and developers in order to achieve two things: one is preventive medicine, and the second is personal medicine tailored to each individual,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, according to Reuters.

One aspect of the plan is an initiative called “Mosaic.” It will encompass a national information infrastructure project focused on genetics.

Netanyahu commented on the possibilities this project could give the country. As pointed out by The Times of Israel, he guessed that the global digital health field is worth $6 trillion. Netanyahu estimated Israel may be able to gain 10 percent of the market.

sponsored content

A Deep-dive Into Specialty Pharma

A specialty drug is a class of prescription medications used to treat complex, chronic or rare medical conditions. Although this classification was originally intended to define the treatment of rare, also termed “orphan” diseases, affecting fewer than 200,000 people in the US, more recently, specialty drugs have emerged as the cornerstone of treatment for chronic and complex diseases such as cancer, autoimmune conditions, diabetes, hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS.

Eli Groner, director general of the prime minister’s office, told the publication the country has a goal of making digital health “the third major growth driver for the Israeli economy,” preceded only by cybersecurity and autonomous vehicles.

In spite of its potential contributions to the field of medical research, some are worried about the privacy implications of the database.

A statement from Netanyahu noted there will be tools to protect individuals’ privacy and keep the information anonymous, according to Reuters.

Israel’s prime minister first announced the project at the World Economic Forum earlier this year.

The initiative has partnered with the Innovation Authority and the Council for Higher Education. In addition to the prime minister’s office, it’s backed by the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Economy, the Ministry for Social Equality and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Space.

Photo: Filograph, Getty Images