Israeli company fights coronavirus with big data

Information about coronavirus has started to accumulate, but in order for it to be useful, it has to be gathered and parsed in an effective way.

Computer keyboard [illustrative]. (photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
Computer keyboard [illustrative].
(photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
Is big data the key to defeating the coronavirus pandemic?
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, one of the main challenges has been a lack of information about the novel coronavirus. A few months later, while scientists all over the world have rushed to study the coronavirus and the disease it causes, information has started to accumulate. But for it to be useful, it has to be gathered and parsed in an effective way.
For this purpose, Beersheba-based company MDClone developed a “pandemic package” to help health systems fight the virus.
MDClone was established four years ago. It provides big-data solutions for healthcare systems and works with organizations in several countries, including Israel, the US and Canada. Thanks to its experience, it found itself in an advantageous position to tackle the challenges.
“COVID-19 is the most crucial disease today, but it is not radically different from other diseases regarding the use of a data platform,” MDClone founder and CEO Ziv Ofek told The Jerusalem Post. “We have been developing ours for four years. It is a very broad health measurements and research platform. What we have been doing in the past few weeks is developing a specific pandemic package by adding some content that is specific to this virus.”
Not enough is known about COVID-19, including its clinical behavior, therapeutic patterns, operational aspects and optimization of the systems, he said.
“Today, we mostly count things: How many people are infected, how many in critical conditions, how many die or recover and their age and gender,” Ofek said. “But these are very simple questions. I’m not dismissing these issues, as they are important to understand the spreading of the pandemic. But they are far from being enough. The questions that physicians on the front lines have are much more complicated.”
Most decisions taken to fight the disease are not supported by evidence but are based on partial information or on instincts and intuitions, he said.
“Quality and accessible data are therefore necessary to make better decisions,” Ofek said, adding that this has to be achieved while protecting the privacy of patients.
For example, he said, an effective collection and analysis of data could help to predict how many patients who are showing only moderate symptoms or no symptoms will take a turn for the worse and will need ventilation, or which treatments have proven to be more effective and for what kind of patients.
The MDClone platform takes the data directly from the electronic medical records in the hospitals.
The Pandemic Response Package is already operating at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer and will be installed in other systems in Israel, the US and Canada soon.
“As a major healthcare system, we immediately consulted with MDClone to find the most effective way to leverage our data to battle the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Eyal Zimlichman, chief medical officer and chief innovation officer at Sheba Medical Center, according to a company press release. “The MDClone Pandemic Response Package enables us to share key findings and data in a collaborative environment, providing a more robust understanding of the evolving COVID-19 situation beyond our internal intel. The application is a critical addition to our efforts to help combat coronavirus, and we look forward to seeing how not only Sheba but all members within the network make an impact globally.”
“Never in history the need to work together and to collaborate with other medical systems and countries was as significant as today,” Ofek said.
“The problem is that on a practical level it is difficult for someone in a hospital in Israel to really know what is happening in a medical center in the US.
“We are now connecting all our members around the world into one global network currently focused on COVID-19 as a practical working network to share research and knowledge and work together on the same questions.”