Israeli HMO investments in AI pay off during the coronavirus crisis

Israel's HMOs are the backbone of the country's healthcare, and they have been developing AI systems for years. When COVID-19 hit, the technology was crucial in flattening the curve of new cases.

 As cases of coronavirus began spiking in Israel in March and the government still debated tourist restrictions and lockdowns, hundreds of thousands of clients of the country's largest HMO, Clalit Health Services, received an alert via text message.

 It was a preemptive social distancing warning to Clalit clients considered high risk for contracting COVID-19. The HMO, which has 4.5 million members, was able to identify at-risk members by modifying an artificial intelligence algorithm already in use to handle seasonal upsurges of influenza cases.

"We were able to ascertain which high risk groups should stay home very early, before the disease became more prevalent within the population," said Ran Balicer, chief innovation officer at Clalit Health Services and the director of its research institute. "I would like to think that this effort helped maintain low mortality rates in Israel, as compared to other countries." 

Clalit's identification tool is one example of how Israel's healthcare service providers have used AI to help in the country's fight against the coronavirus. In addition to proactive notification of high-risk individuals, AI-enabled healthcare technology has been deployed in a diverse set of contexts: from continuous monitoring of COVID-19 patients' medical conditions, to performing remote diagnostic tests, to streamlining data intake on corona tests.

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