As China’s population ages, its healthcare needs are growing – and to keep costs down, the country is looking at ways to keep patients out of the doctor’s office, via Israeli communication technology.
“The best way to save money is to bring healthcare to the home, to enable people to better take care of themselves,” according to Renming Zhu, president of Truth Enterprises, which calls itself a “smart healthcare technology” company. “With mobile and video technology, patients will be able to connect with many specialists at a minimum cost.”
Renming was in Israel for the recent mHealth Mobile Health Conference, where technology to do that, as well as to diagnose patients and improve their health, were on display. Israelis start-ups, medical tech firms, and executives of the health industry were all on hand to show off their latest developments to Renming and hundreds of other visitors, from Israel and abroad.
Renming was particularly interested in early stage start-ups, some of which he hoped to attract to a new incubator his company was establishing in Shanghai.
“We already have local companies that specialize in various aspects of healthcare, and we very much want to bring in companies from abroad, starting with Israel,” he said. “We are working with local and national government to offer free space, coaches, and mentors, and we are ready to help an Israeli company build partnerships with Chinese firms and market locally.”
While there are many government-sponsored incubators, the Chinese government is particularly interested in supporting healthcare start-ups, said Renming. Especially given the recent economic problems in China, the government is becoming more selective on how it invests its money – and healthcare is a priority.
“Although the healthcare system is adequate, it does not reach everyone, and as the population gets older it will be more difficult to effectively serve them.”
Over the next decade, the number of elderly in China is expected to rise to 300 million by 2025 from its current 200 million, and continue to rise from there.
Israel start-ups, combining local expertise in medical technology, networking and communications, sensor technology, and app development, have devised unique solutions to bring medical care out of the doctor’s office and into the field. One such company is Aerotel, which specializes in telemedicine – transferring essential medical and lifestyle data over the telephone, mobile phone, wireless, the Internet and other electronic media.
The company’s apps hook up with medical equipment or sensors and transmits information on a patient’s health parameters such as electrocardiogram (ECG), blood pressure, blood glucose level, weight, etc., to doctors or hospitals. The information gets updated on a regular basis, and if anything is amiss in the data – blood pressure too high, ECG too unstable – an alarm goes off, alerting patients and doctors that action is necessary.
Another good example of remote care is Biop, a device that medical personnel in rural areas can use to diagnose cervical cancer, one of the biggest killers of women in developing areas. The device consists of a cloud-connected high resolution optical system, with the images sent to a remote server. There, the images are analyzed in depth, with the Biop software able to distinguish between normal and cancerous cells. The results are then returned a few minutes later, so both the care provider and the patient know what they are up against, without having to wait long agonizing weeks to find out if they are healthy or sick. According to the company, tests in clinics in the US and Europe show that the results are at least 90% accurate, on the first test.
The mHealth event is one of a series of similar events held around the world to highlight mobile health technologies. mHealth Israel has about 1,400 members. According to Levi Shapiro, a founder and lead organizer of the group and General Partner at Veritas Ventures, Israel is an ideal setting for mobile health technologies due to its start up culture and healthcare system.
Renming agrees. “Israel has the health technology China needs,” he said. “We have the marketing expertise and the connections in the local market to ensure that those solutions make an impact. We also have good relations with local governments and regulatory bodies to ensure a smooth entry into the market. There is plenty of room for innovative Israeli technologies in China, and we would love to help bring some of them back with us.”