Personal Medicine: Knowledge-Based Multilegged Companies Can Lead the Way

Uzia Galil (MSEE '53), known as the pioneer of Israeli high-tech, is chairman, president, and CEO of Uzia Initiatives and Management Ltd. (Israel).

Although countries like the United States, which represent the world's major markets and suppliers, are responsible for most of the global companies of our time, small countries like Finland, Sweden, Ireland, and Israel also want to be recognized as players in the global market. They definitely need to base their economic growth on those worldwide markets, because their own local market cannot afford such growth. Therefore, the obvious question arises: What is their relative advantage?

In Israel, we recognize that building knowledge-based industries was the only chance to develop our economy, and we started creating those companies, the first of which — Elron Electronic Industries — I founded in 1962. We realized that we needed real partners, with management and marketing capabilities, both in the U.S. and in Europe.

At home, we have continuously strengthened academic education and industrial R&D and increased the number of talented graduates in scientific and technological areas. But the most important element was to focus our efforts on specific industries, like defense, semiconductors, communication, and healthcare.

In the healthcare field, the talent available in Israel, in collaboration primarily with American and European R&D, will in the long run result in worldwide multilegged knowledge-based companies dedicated to "personal medicine," which will have one major purpose: to shorten the time between great research and the benefit for the patient by providing adequate tools to the clinician and guidance to the patient.

Information technology for healthcare does not know boundaries. I thought a few years ago that the way to promote it was by creating a very efficient personal computerized medical record, which will also include important genetic information. I created Galil Center for Telemedicine and Medical Informatics at the faculty of medicine of the Techion-Israel Institute of Technology to support research and its implementation in these fields.

In the meantime, both the U.S. and the United Kingdom have committed that between 2010 and 2015, every citizen will have his own personal electronic health record.

One of the major problems still is for physicians at different clinics in different parts of the globe to interpret the different standards used by various hospitals, medical centers, HMOs, and so on, because too many of them developed their own systems.

Global companies have been looking for solutions. For instance, the Israeli company dbMotion Inc., accepted worldwide, came up with a solution — the virtual patient record — that enables healthcare organizations to securely share medical information, namely, by logically connecting a group of care providers and organizations worldwide, without data centralization or replacement of existing information systems.

It is well recognized today that the use of information technology (IT) in healthcare stands 10 to 15 years behind industrial, financial,and many other sectors. We hear today at conventions around the world that there is a real revolution in IT for healthcare, including personal medicine. This will be achieved by taking advantage of the best solutions and by creating global business around it. Moreover, an important benefit will be achieved by providing clinicians with new tools (mostly software) that will help them reduce the frequency of errors in medical practice. The number of articles found today in this area is increasing daily.

All the above obviously has a tremendous impact on education. The emerging concept of the global profession of "physician" indicates what the physician's competence should be, once he takes full advantage of the IT tools developed worldwide for personal medicine.

I wish to conclude by expressing my admiration for Purdue's Regenstrief Center for Healthcare Engineering, and I hope that its mission—to "catalyze the transformation of healthcare-delivery systems by applying the principles of engineering, management, and science"—will also have a global impact in the near future.

—Uzia Galil