Founder Stories: How Becoming a Drone Pilot led to Eleos Health

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At first glance, the move from drone pilot to co-founder and chief operating officer of a behavioral health digital start-up may seem unusual. For Dror Zaide, the shift was a natural progression of his experience. His time as a drone pilot informed the need to develop voice-to-insights to help clinicians deliver better quality care.

Zaide explained, “A drone pilot and a clinician both must navigate situations from a bird’s eye view. A drone pilot sits in a room while flying an aircraft that is 100s or 1000s of miles away. They must imagine what it would feel like to be in the drone in another place. It is similar for clinicians. They listen to an individual tell a story and they must put themselves into that story. Clinicians try to make meaning of an event for which they have limited context.

Zaide served as a drone pilot in the Israeli Air Force from 2006 to 2013. While in the Air Force he experienced what it is like to deal directly with a mental health crisis when he had to come to the aid of a fellow drone pilot who was having a difficult time. Drone pilots are highly susceptible to symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to the stressful nature of the job. Drone pilots can be flying a mission in another country and within 30 minutes be home with their families which creates a gap between two realities.

As a result of his experience, Zaide helped create a mental health workshop for drone pilots called Soul Bird. Soul Bird is a popular Israeli children’s book that teaches us how to listen to our emotions or soul bird. The program consisted of three components including strategies for resilience, debriefings on tough events, and access to clinical psychologists.

After leaving the Israeli Air Force, Zaide co-founded a non-profit called Givit to connect students in need with educational materials such as desks. Zaide explained that once a student with a need was identified all they had to do was approve a picture of the item and it is delivered to their doorstep. The goal is to provide students with the right materials and environment to succeed in school.

Shortly after in 2018, Zaide was selected to participate in the exclusive Zell Entrepreneurship program at Reichmann University. At Zell, Zaide met the other two co-founders of Eleos Health, Alon Joffe and Alon Rabinovich. All three have experienced the effects of mental illness on family and friends, so deciding to focus on behavioral health was a natural fit. The lack of funding in the behavioral health field makes it difficult for an organization to focus on innovation. It is a field where there are significant opportunities to improve care delivery.

To identify the most critical problems in behavioral health, Zaide spent hours talking to clinicians. He quickly realized that, unlike drone pilots, clinicians go into a session essentially blind. Drone pilots are used to a strong culture of feedback. They have dashboards, recordings, and two-way mirrors where instructors assess performance. On the other hand, clinicians go into a session with just their notes from the last session. People are expected to get better after therapy sessions, but we don’t know why they are getting better and even sometimes if they feel better.

Combined with the experiences of Joffe and Rabinovich, the idea for voice-based technology insights was born. The goal was to provide clinicians with the same feedback that drone pilots receive. They could revisit their sessions, understand their use of evidence-based practices, and most importantly – help people get better, faster. From this Eleos Health was created. Over the next few years, Zaide is looking forward to expanding the use of Eleos Health across organizations and services.

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