US, Israel need more health collaboration amid pandemic, policy paper says

The US-Israel Business Initiative of the US Chamber of Commerce calls for partnerships between health care professionals, policymakers, and the private sector

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Illustrative image of the American and Israeli flags. (3dmitry; iStock by Getty Images)
Illustrative image of the American and Israeli flags. (3dmitry; iStock by Getty Images)

The United States and Israel should join forces on boosting the use of artificial intelligence in health care and should set up a joint public-private research and development center, urged a US-Israel business initiative.

The US-Israel Business Initiative, set up by the US Chamber of Commerce, has released a white paper entitled “U.S.-Israel Collaboration in Health Innovation” to government agencies of both countries that provides a road map with policy recommendations aimed at advancing greater coordination in health technology and innovation between the US and Israel.

The report released last week includes policy proposals from the working group to bolster collaboration in Israel on a variety of areas including digital health, pharmaceutical research and development, medical devices, and cybersecurity of critical health infrastructure.

“The United States and Israel are leading hubs for health-related technology,” said Josh Kram, executive director of Middle East Affairs at the US Chamber of Commerce. “As we’ve seen the COVID-19 pandemic continue to pose some of the greatest health challenges of our time, it is important to build partnerships in Israel between health care professionals, policymakers, and the private sector.”

Josh Kram, a senior director of Middle East Affairs in the US Chamber of Commerce (Shoshanna Solomon/The Times of Israel)

The US-Israel Business Initiative, launched in 2010, is a Washington-based national program focused on advancing the business partnership between the United States and Israel.

The new policy paper set out by the organization “highlights how the US can collaboratively help advance health technology and innovation in Israel,” Kram said.

The US Chamber of Commerce, which is the largest business organization in the world, is the voice of the industry in the US, and also sees itself in charge of promoting bilateral ties between the US and global nations. The US Chamber of Commerce works with Israel firms to expand commercial relations, and with the government to promote policies to facilitate these interactions and expand the scope of relations.

Pandemic preparedness

The paper recommends creating a public-private R&D center that will support projects to develop and deploy new technologies with commercial application in the health sector, similar to the recently created US-Israel Energy Center of Excellence.

A nurse wearing protective gear and a pair of Microsoft HoloLens 2 glasses uses augmented reality functionality to perform maintenance tasks in Sheba Medical Center’s “hospital room of the future” (courtesy of Sheba Medical Center)

The new policy paper also calls for strengthening US-Israeli cooperation on the use of artificial intelligence, especially in the health sectors; setting up the position of health attaches at the respective embassies; streamlining regulatory processes to do away with market-entry barriers for new products; and adding a Israel-US digital trade chapter to the US-Israel Free Trade Agreement (FTA) signed 35 years ago that would include cybersecurity collaboration and open access to government-generated public data and strike down customs duties on digital products flowing both ways.

The policy proposals also call for aligning US-Israeli standards and regulatory frameworks, upgrading cyber R&D cooperation, and exploring joint programs on security certification and labeling for technology products.

Israel has a health care system with four health maintenance organizations that represent 98% of the population. For some 20 years these HMOs have used the same electronic medical records platform, with access to patient records available to each point of care as needed. As a result, Israel has one of the largest databases on patients, conditions, and treatments anywhere in the world.

The Israeli government in 2018 approved a NIS 1 billion ($291 million) digital health initiative to make the nation’s large pool of anonymized data available to researchers, entrepreneurs, and medical institutions, as well as pilot programs for startups to join forces with international companies.

In 2018, Israel’s life sciences sector attracted $1.5 billion in investment and the nation was home to about 1,600 medical device companies. Multinational companies have R&D activity in Israel, including Abbott, Philips Healthcare, Johnson & Johnson, Medtronic, General Electric, and Siemens.

“With a huge influx of internet-connected devices coming to market, coupled with faster 5G technologies, this sector will continue to experience dramatic growth,” the paper said.

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