When the Stars Align: Another big step forward to fulfilling the Zebra-med vision

By: Eyal Gura, CEO.

Today we reported on a big milestone in fulfilling our dream to impact millions of lives with medical AI. The choice made by the Indian and Israeli Governments, to put their trust in a small startup from Kibbutz Shefayim was not guaranteed and we cannot take it for granted.

It was four years ago when I joined our board member Euan Thomson for a trip to India to visit Apollo Hospitals for the first time and meet Sangita Reddy.

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My first impression was a big surprise. When I entered the lobby of the Apollo hospital in Hyderabad I felt that this is one of the best and most organized facilities I had ever visited. They were already piloting many new technologies with the sole purpose of driving innovation into their patients’ care.

However this was not enough. When we met Sangita (Managing Director of Apollo Hospitals), she was dissatisfied. Her vision, and the Apollo Group vision, was to see how they can scale from “only” 30 million patients under their care at the time, to hundreds of millions. The discussion was fascinating to hear, especially for an Israeli that hails from a little country the size of a small Indian city. Apollo faced significant operational challenges that I could not even imagine – such as delivering the physical internet infrastructure to service huge rural areas,  how to create hundreds of thousands of mini-clinics that will operate with nurses and technology at scale and cost? The most impressive part of that meeting was the feeling that these are not theoretical discussions and that Sangita and her team were actually going to find a way to achieve their vision. However, it was not going to be easy but here is how the stars began to align…

Star #1:  To achieve the modestly prescribed doctor-to-population ratio of 1:1000, India will need 2.07 million additional doctors by 2030, according to a report in the Indian Journal of Public Health. Radiologists are one of the most scarce medical professionals and as you may be aware from many previous Zebra publications, they are overwhelmed by the amount of data they need to interpret due to; the aging population, new imaging modalities and two billion people worldwide who are joining the middle-class.   

Star #2: Last year we published our famous text-ray publication that still remains the most comprehensive study that was ever conducted with AI using over two million images (!) for training the algorithm. Fast forward to this year and next year, and we will deploy these findings with Apollo in India to better screen patients for Tuberculosis (TB) and other acute conditions. We will also aim to reduce radiologists overload through the better prioritization of cases using our acute triage products.

Star #3: also last year, India’s Prime Minister launched what was named as “the world’s biggest experiment in universal healthcare” with an ambitious program to insure 500m patients and provide them with affordable healthcare. The program is so ambitious that it is not clear how will India find so many new doctors to provide the leadership and service.

Upon being notified of this joint Israel-Indian grant I felt an alignment of the stars that had led us to this partnership from our initial meeting four years ago.

You can see how this story unfolds.

We now need to get back to work and make this happen so the Zebra impact can reach rural India !

Eyal and the Zebra-med team.

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