Photo Credit: Abir Sultan/Poll via Reuters

Israel is the next country to take full advantage of big data, by investing nearly $287 million in a project to make data about the state of health of its population widely available to researchers and private companies.

According to U.S. News, the country has a population of nine million citizens, who belong to four health maintenance organisations (HMOs) who keep members’ records digitally, therefore comprising a huge medical database. 

“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,” said Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. 

Despite the growth prospects, head of Public Health School at Ben Gurion University in Southern Israel, Nadav Davidovitch is concerned that the push does harbor risks, especially in terms of privacy and medical confidentiality. 

He has voiced particular concerns over whether private companies would profit using a publicly-funded database while continuing to make some medication unaffordable to many patients. 

However, Netanyahu’s office reassured that mechanisms would be put in place to keep information anonymous while protecting privacy, information security and restricting access as part of the government project. World leaders and international firms have already shown interest in the project, expressing that the potential revenue for Israel could be in the billions of dollars. 

So far, all the world’s major drug companies have departments focused on the use of real-world data across multiple diseases. Several have even completed several scientific studies using the information to delve into key areas addressed by their drugs. 

Real-world evidence involves collecting data outside traditional randomised clinical trials, the current gold standard for judging medicines, and interest in the field as a whole is rising very quickly. 

More on these topics