Maccabi Healthcare launches medical advice app to replace 'Dr. Google'

"The patient deserves reliable and well-established information."

A team of doctors discuss mental health (Illustrative) (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
A team of doctors discuss mental health (Illustrative)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Medical subjects are among the most common Google searches, but when people want to know what’s wrong with them, they may reach the wrong conclusion. Too much of the information is nonsense, commercially motivated, abstruse or irrelevant to the individual case.
Now, Maccabi Healthcare Services, the second largest health fund, has developed an innovative medical information smartphone application called K Health, based on anonymous information from tens of millions of visits to Maccabi family physicians since 1992, when it’s data was first computerized.
It is completely anonymous, asking only for the user’s age and gender, and is available in Hebrew and English (other languages will follow) – not only to members of any health fund but to anyone in the world.
Maccabi director-general Ran Saar said on Tuesday: “The patient deserves reliable and well-established information. We have been able to produce innovation that is useful for anyone. Online search results of medical information are perceived by the user as neither reliable nor personal. Any solution proposed so far was not based on real and personal medical information and therefore was not accurate enough,” Saar explained.
“This is an Israeli development, and therefore it will serve the Israeli public first. It’s a blue-and-white product that brings a lot of pride to Maccabi and Israel.”
A sophisticated algorithm was written for the app. If, for example, you suffer from a stomachache for a week, just enter your age and gender and you will be asked an average of 13 questions in about two minutes that you should answer.
It doesn’t diagnose your individual problem, but it will say that on the basis of (for example) 300,000 complaints over the years from Maccabi members, 80% ate bad or too much food or had a viral infection, while the rest might have had something more serious.
The app, produced by Maccabi and the New York-based hi-tech company K Health that was founded by Israelis, does not come instead of a visit to the doctor, which is necessary, but it does replace “Dr. Google,” where many people seek medical information, Maccabi says.
The algorithm was developed by a large team of mathematicians and physicians at K Health. The company “studied” diagnoses and recommendations from millions of doctors’ visits. With each additional chat, K Health keeps learning more and uses that knowledge to further refine the questions it will present to the next user.
Prof. Varda Shalev, head of the Maccabi and Morris Kahn Institute for Research and Innovation, who partnered with K Health in the development of the application, said: “Patients will be able to receive reliable medical information from now on in a very convenient way.”
ALLON BLOCH, co-founder and CEO of K Health said, “When you compare your case to thousands of cases like yours – cases of people of your age and gender with the same symptoms – suddenly you can better understand what diagnosis the doctor has determined for them, what tests they have done and what were the treatment methods recommended by the doctors.
With access to information about people like you, you are no longer in the dark when it comes to your body and health.”
Bloch co-founded and heads K Health along with Ran Shaul and Israel Roth; Ariel Leventhal leads the development of artificial intelligence.
A survey conducted by Maccabi for the launch of K Health found that 75% of the public look for medical information on the Internet.
However, 54% of respondents discovered that the information they found on the Internet was incorrect, and 66% found that the diagnosis they received on the Internet was much more serious than what they actually had. The app is designed to replace these searches and their results.
Toni Cohen, Maccabi’s director of marketing who initiated the project, said: “The patient wants to know more, and that’s his right.
Many health organizations are fighting against the phenomenon of searching for information on the Internet, but they are wrong to go against basic human behavior.
The patient has a real and significant need, and Maccabi brings an innovative solution – information that is relevant, based on real doctor visits, and adapted to the user’s characteristics.”
Maccabi said K Health has already invested $12 million in its product. The health fund said it has not made any money from the app, but if there are profits, they will be invested in the database.
The Maccabi and Morris Kahn Institute for Research and Innovation is the first institute of its kind in Israel, which deals with all fields of medical research at the forefront of technology and medicine – data-based studies, clinical studies, technological developments and genetics. The institute’s vision is to lead in innovation and medical analysis in order to promote personalized medicine and to strengthen the quality of medical research carried out worldwide.
Morris Kahn also founded the first Internet platform of its kind in Israel and abroad, which enables research on the basis of the medical data in Maccabi Healthcare Services, thus enabling advanced research with researchers from all over the world while maintaining complete privacy and information security.
The institute is based on the advanced work of epidemiologists, physicians, researchers, computer scientists, mathematicians, and algorithm developers of the first rank in Israel and abroad.
The app, K Health, is available free of charge on the App Store and on Google Play. Download link at