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Sun, 21.04.24

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October 2023
Rotem Tal-Ben Ishay MD MPH, Kobi Faierstein MD, Haim Mayan MD, Noya Shilo MD

Background: At the beginning of 2020, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic presented a new burden on healthcare systems.

Objectives: To evaluate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the outcome of non-COVID patients in Israel.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective observational cohort study at a tertiary medical center in Israel. From December 2018 until June 2022, 6796 patients were hospitalized in the internal medicine wards. Patients were grouped based on their admission date: admitted during COVID waves (waves group), admitted between waves (interim group), and admitted during the same months in the previous year (former-year group).

Results: Mortality during hospitalization and 30-day mortality were higher in the waves group compared to the interim and former-year groups (41.4% vs. 30.5% and 24%, 19.4% vs. 17.9% and 12.9%, P < 0.001). In addition, 1-year mortality was higher in the interim group than in the waves and former-year group (39.1 % vs. 32.5% and 33.4%, P = 0.002). There were significant differences in the readmissions, both at 1 year and total number. The waves group had higher rates of mechanical ventilation and noradrenaline administration during hospitalization. Moreover, the waves group exhibited higher troponin levels, lower hemoglobin levels, and more abnormalities in liver and kidney function.

Conclusions: Hospitalized non-COVID patients experienced worse outcomes during the peaks of the pandemic compared to the nadirs and the preceding year, perhaps due to the limited availability of resources. These results underscore the importance of preparing for large-scale threats and implementing effective resource allocation policies.

June 2022
Royi Barnea PhD, Ruti Berger PhD, Yossi Weiss PhD MPH, and Joshua Shemer MD

Overuse of healthcare services is a common phenomenon defined as: “a healthcare service that is provided under circumstances in which its potential for harm exceeds the possible benefit.” It is expressed in the gap between desired services and available ones and is accompanied by high financial and human life costs. One-fifth to one-third of patients receives unnecessary, ineffective, or potentially harmful treatments or services. One of the greatest challenges to understanding overuse is the lack of definition for appropriate use. Apart from the physical and mental damage caused by overuse or improper use of medical services, this phenomenon has many implications, such as increasing waiting times for services, creating long queues, and incurring considerable financial costs as over 10% of hospital expenses are used to correct medical errors or preventable infections. Government intervention through economic arrangements such as deductibles and pre-authorization of services by the insurer are partially effective in reducing the overuse of health services. Additional solutions include ensuring safety and quality of care as well as shared decision-making.

September 2019
Anath A. Flugelman MD MPH, Jonathan Dubnov MD MPH, Lila Jacob PhD, Nili Stein MPH, Sonia Habib MD MPH and Shmuel Rishpon MD MPH

Background: Cryptosporidium is a major threat to water supplies worldwide. Various biases and obstacles in case identification are recognized. In Israel, Cryptosporidiosis was included among notifiable diseases in 2001 in order to determine the burden of parasite-inflicted morbidity and to justify budgeting a central drinking water filtration plant.

Objective: To summarize the epidemiologic features of 14 years of Cryptosporidium surveillance and to assess the effects of advanced water purification treatment on the burden of disease.

Methods: From 2001 to 2014, a passive surveillance system was used. Cases were identified based on microscopic detection in stool samples. Confirmed cases were reported electronically to the Israeli Ministry of Health. Overall rates as well as age, gender, ethnicity and specific annual incidence were calculated per 100,000 population in five age groups: 0–4, 5–14, 15–44, 45–64, > 65 years.

Results: A total of 522 Cryptosporidium cases were reported in all six public health districts. More cases were detected among Jews and among males, and mainly in young children, with a seasonal peak during summer. The Haifa sub-district reported 69% of the cases. Most were linked to an outbreak from the summer of 2008, which was attributed to recreational swimming pool activity. Cases decreased after installation of a central filtration plant in 2007.

Conclusions: As drinking water in Israel is treated to maximal international standards, the rationale for further inclusion of Cryptosporidium among mandatory notifiable diseases should be reconsidered. Future surveillance efforts should focus on timely detection of outbreaks using molecular high-throughput testing.

October 2013
I. Abadi-Korek, J. Glazer, A. Granados, O. Luxenburg, M.R. Trusheim, N. Hakak and J. Shemer
April 2011
A. Lubovich, H. Hamood, S. Behar and U. Rosenschein

Background: Rapid reperfusion of an infarct-related artery is crucial for the successful treatment of ST elevation myocardial infarction. Every effort should be made to shorten door-to-balloon time.

Objectives: To investigate whether bypassing the emergency room (ER) has a positive influence on door-to-balloon time in patients presenting with ST elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) and whether the reduction in door-to-balloon time improves patients’ clinical outcome.

Methods: We analyzed data of 776 patients with STEMI[1] from the 2004 and the 2006 Acute Coronary Syndrome Israeli Survey (ACSIS) registry. The ACSIS[2] is a biennial survey on acute myocardial infarction performed in all 25 intensive cardiac care units in Israel during a 2-month period. Twenty-five percent of patients (193 of 776) arrived directly to the intensive cardiac care unit (ICCU) and 75% (583 of 776) were assessed first in the ER[3]. We compared door-to-balloon time, ejection fraction, 30 days MACE (major adverse cardiac and cerebrovascular events) and 30 days mortality in the two study groups.

Results: There was significantly shorter door-to-balloon time in the direct ICCU group as compared with the ER group (45 vs. 79 minutes, P < 0.002). Patients in the direct ICCU group were more likely to have door-to-balloon time of less than 90 minutes in accordance with ACC/AHA guidelines (88.7% vs. 59.2%, P < 0.0001). Moreover, patients in the direct ICCU group were less likely to have left ventricular ejection fraction < 30% (5.4% vs. 12.2%, P = 0.045) and less likely to have symptoms of overt congestive heart failure. Lastly, 30 days MACE[4] was significantly lower in the direct ICCU group (22 vs. 30%, P < 0.004).

Conclusions: There is significant reduction of the door-to-balloon time in the direct ICCU admission strategy. This reduction translates into improvement in clinical outcome of patients. It is reasonable to apply the direct ICCU strategy to patients with STEMI.






[1] STEMI = ST elevation myocardial infarction



[2] ACSIS = Acute Coronary Syndrome Israeli Survey



[3] ER = emergency room



[4] MACE = major adverse cardiac and cerebrovascular events


April 2008
Y. Braun-Moscovici, D.n Markovits, A. Rozin, K. Toledano, A. M. Nahir and Alexandra Balbir-Gurman

Background: Infliximab and etanercept have been included in the Israeli national list of health services since 2002 for rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile idiopathic arthritis, and since 2005 for psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. The regulator (Ministry of Health and health funds) mandates using fixed doses of infliximab as the first drug of choice and increased dosage is not allowed. For other indications (e.g., vasculitis), anti-tumor necrosis factor therapy is given on a "compassionate" basis in severe refractory disease.

Objectives: To describe our experience with anti-TNF[1] therapy in a single tertiary referral center in northern Israel and to analyze the impact of the national health policy on the results.

Methods: We reviewed the medical records of patients who received anti-TNF therapy in our institution, and analyzed demographic data, diagnosis, clinical and laboratory features, previous and current therapies, and anti-TNF treatment duration and side effects.

Results: Between 2001 and 2006, 200 patients received anti-TNF therapy for rheumatoid arthritis (n=108), juvenile idiopathic arthritis (n=11), psoriatic arthritis (n=37), ankylosing spondylitis (n=29), adult Still's disease (n=4), overlap disease (RA[2] and scleroderma or polymyositis, n=6), temporal arteritis (n=1), polyarteritis nodosa (n=1), dermatomyositis (n=1), amyloidosis secondary to RA (n=1) and Wegener's granulomatosis (n=1). Forty percent of RA patients discontinued the first anti-TNF agent due to side effects or insufficient response. Higher sedimentation rate and lower or negative rheumatoid factor predicted better response to therapy among RA patients. AS[3] and PS[4] patients had a better safety and efficacy profile. Severe infections occurred in 2% of patients. All eight patients who presented lung involvement as part of their primary rheumatic disease remained stable or improved. A significant improvement was achieved in all six patients with overlap disease.

Conclusion: Our daily practice data are generally in agreement with worldwide experience. The ‘deviations’ might be explained by the local health policy at that time. The impact of health policy and economic and administrative constraints should be taken into account when analyzing cohort daily practice data.






[1] TNF = tumor necrosis factor

[2] RA = rheumatoid arthritis

[3] AS = ankylosing spondylitis

[4] PS = psoriatic arthritis


September 2003
D. Nitzan Kaluski and A. Leventhal

Only one case of a cow infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy has been reported in Israel. Its publication, in 2002, caused both public and professional concern. The inevitable health policy question raised was whether or not to recommend against consuming beef and what public health measures should be taken. In this article we describe the prion diseases among animals and humans, their interaction and the precautionary procedures that were carried out by the state Veterinary Services and the Ministry of Health since 1988. The BSE[1] case (a 10 year old dairy cow) is believed to be the result of local consumption of infected food with mammalian meat and bone meal more than a decade earlier. The risk assessment took into consideration that no cases of vCJD (a new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease) have ever been diagnosed in Israel, as well as the low risk of contamination of the meat due to the religious method of slaughtering performed in the country. The policy decision was to implement a contingency plan prepared in advance. Israel was reclassified from the level II category of geographic risk where BSE is unlikely but not excluded in the herds, to level III, where BSE is likely but not confirmed, or confirmed at a lower level. No undue damage to the meat industry has occurred. By the end of 2002, despite the examination of more than 3,800 brains from slaughtered cows older than 3 years, no other cases of BSE have been detected.

 







[1] BSE = bovine spongiform encephalopathy


April 2003
D. Nizan Kaluski, T.H. Tulchinsky, A. Haviv, Y. Averbicj. S. Rachmiel, E.B. Berry and A. Leventhal

Micronutrient deficiencies have reoccupied the center stage of public health policy with the realization that folic acid deficiency results in neural tube defects and possibly other birth defects as well as ischemic heart disease. These, in turn, have raised an older debate on food fortification policy for the elimination of iodine, iron and vitamin D deficiencies. Data from the First Israeli National Health and Nutrition Survey (MABAT 2000) provided an impetus to develop an active national nutrition policy aimed to improve the nutritional status of iodine, iron, vitamins A and D and B-vitamins, including folate. In this paper we examine some of the MND[1] issues in Israel and their implications for public health, and suggest options for the formulation of policy.






[1] MND = micronutrient deficiency



 
December 2001
Hava Tabenkin MD, Revital Gross, Shuli Bramli Greenberg, Dov Steinmetz MD and Asher Elhayany MD MP

Background: The rapidly increasing costs of healthcare pose a major challenge to many governments, particularly those of developed countries. Health policy makers in some Western European countries have adopted the policy of a strong primary healthcare system, partly due to their recognition of the value of primary care medicine as a means to restrain costs while maintaining the quality and equity of healthcare services. In these countries there is a growing comprehension that the role of the family physician should be central, with responsibility for assessing the overall health needs of the individual, for coordination of medical care and, as the primary caregiver, for most of the individual’s medical problems in the framework of the family and the community.

Objectives: To describe primary care physicians in Israel from their own perception, health policy makers' opinion on the role PCPs should play, and patients' view on their role as gatekeepers.

Methods: The study was based on three research tools: a) a questionnaire mailed to a representative sample of all PCPs employed by the four sick funds in Israel in 1997, b) in-depth semi-structured interviews with key professionals and policy makers in the healthcare system, and c) a national telephone survey of a random representative sample of patients conducted in 1997.

Results: PCPs were asked to rank the importance of 12 primary functions. A total of 95% considered coordination of all patient care to be a very important function, but only 43% thought that weighing economic considerations in patient management is important, and 30.6% thought that 24 hour responsibility for patients is important. Also, 60% of PCPs have undergone specialty training and 94% thought that this training is essential. With regard to the policy makers, most preferred highly trained PCPs (board-certified family physicians, pediatricians and internists) and believed they should play a central role in the healthcare system, acting as coordinators, highly accessible and able to weigh cost considerations. Yet, half opposed a full gatekeeper model. They also felt that the general population has lost faith in PCPs, and that most have a low status and do not have adequate training. Regarding the patients’ viewpoint, 40% preferred that the PCP function as their “personal physician” coordinating all aspects of their care and fully in charge of their referrals; 30% preferred self-referral to sub-specialists, and 19% preferred their PCP to coordinate their care but wanted to be able to refer themselves to specialists.

Conclusions: In order to maintain high quality primary care, it is important that all PCPs have board certification. In addition, PCP training systems should emphasize preventive medicine, health promotion, health economy, and cost-effectiveness issues. Efforts should be make to render PCPs a central role in the healthcare system by gradually implementing the elements of the gatekeeper model through incentives rather than regulations.
 

Asher Elhayany, MD

One of the most important issuesfor a country, its population and doctors is the effective use of its health system. The tremendous waste of resources. To combat this, and at the same time ensure that medical quality plays a role when making decisions on interventions, it is essential to equip doctors and clinic directors with information on the quality of the medical care they are providing. In order to assist clinic directors in maitaining medical quality, Clalit Health Services has developed comparative medical indices enabling doctors to compare their performance to that of their colleagues, as well as to the standard and their performance over time. The development of an index to evaluate the quality of medical treatment offered in clinics provides doctors and the health system with an essential tool to lessen the existing variation among doctors and to enhance and evaluate performance.

November 2000
Jochanan Benbassat, MD, Ziona Haklai, MSc, Shimon Glick, MD and Nurit Friedman, MSc
 Background: In 1995 hospital costs constituted about 42% of the health expenditures in Israel. Although this proportion remained stable over the last decade, hospital discharge rates per 1,000 population increased, while hospitalization days per 1,000 population and average length of stay declined.

Objective: To gain an insight into the forces behind these changes, we compared the trends in hospital utilization in Israel with those in 21 developed countries with available data.

Materials and Methods: Our data were derived from The "Hospitals and Day Care Units, 1995" report by the Health Information and Computer Services of the Israel Ministry of Health, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Health Data, 98. We examined the numbers of acute care hospital beds, of patients on dialysis and of doctors' consultations, health expenditures and age structure of the population in 1995 or closest year with available data, as well as changes in DRs, HDs and ALOS between 1976 and 1995.

Results: In Israel the DRs increased from 130 in 1976 to 177 in 1995 (36%), HDs declined from 992 to 818 (18%), and ALOS declined from 7.60 to 4.51 days (41%). Relative to other countries, in 1995 Israel had the lowest ALOS; low HDs similar to those in the UK, Portugal, Spain, the USA and Sweden; and intermediate DRs similar to those in Belgium, Germany, Sweden and Australia. The number of acute care beds per 1,000 population was directly related to HDs (r=0.954, P=0.000) and to DRs (r=0.419, P=0.052). Health expenditures (% of the gross national product) correlated with the number of patients on dialysis per 1,000,000 population (r=0.743, P=0.000). Between 1976 and 1995, HDs and ALOS declined in most countries, however the trends in DRs varied from an increase by 119% in the UK to a decline by 29% in Canada.

Conclusions and hypotheses: The increase in DRs in Israel from 1976 to 1995 was shared by many but not all countries. This variability may be related to differences in trends in local practice norms and in available hospital beds. If the number of patients on dialysis is a valid index for use of expensive treatment modalities, the correlation of health expenditures with the number of patients on dialysis suggests that the use of expensive technology is a more important determinant of health care costs than the age of the population or hospital utilization. Since the use of expensive technology is highest during the first few days in hospital, decisions about health care policy should consider the possibility that the savings incurred by a further decline in HDs and ALOS may be offset by a possible increase in per diem hospital costs and in health care expenditures after discharge from hospital.

May 2000
Ziona Haklai MSc, Shimon Glick MD and Jochanan Benbassat MD

Background: The increasing utilization of general internal medicine hospital wards in Israel during the last decade is a source of concern for health policy makers.

Objectives: To report on the distribution of selected main and secondary diagnoses among GIM inpatients, and to estimate the proportion of disorders for which appropriate care in the community will reduce the need for hospital admissions and re-admissions.

Methods: Data from the Health Information and Computer Services of the Israel Ministry of Health (national hospitalization database) for a one year period were analyzed by distribution of diagnostic entities (ICD-9-CM) in GIM and in medical subspecialty wards.

Results: Of the 313,824 discharges from hospital divisions of medicine in 1995, 256,956 (81.9%) were from GIM and 56,868 (18.1%) from specialty wards. Main and secondary discharge diagnoses were available for 188,807 GIM and 35,992 specialty patients. Of all main diagnoses in GIM wards, 27% were coded as "general or systemic symptoms and signs" or as "abnormal laboratory or ill defined manifestations" (ICD-9-CM codes 780-799, 276,277), and heart diseases comprised another 27%. The remaining main diagnoses covered almost all medical conditions. The combined proportion of "ambulatory care sensitive hospital admissions" (bronchial asthma, hypertension, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes) constituted 12% of all main diagnoses in GIM, and respiratory symptoms or signs comprised another 11%. A by-product of this analysis was an insight into the experience of undergraduate medical students in GIM.

Conclusions: Assuming that 12-75% of admissions for "ambulatory care sensitive disorders" are preventable, an improved review before hospital discharge and a closer outpatient follow-up may reduce the load on GIM wards by 1-17%. This wide range justifies controlled trials to determine the effect of improved community care on hospital utilization. GIM wards offer valuable learning opportunities, but they cannot be a substitute for primary care clinics. The unexplained high proportion of GIM inpatients who were discharged with an unspecified main diagnosis could be detrimental for the accuracy of hospitalization statistics, and justifies investigation by chart audits into physicians' habits of documentation.

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GIM= general internal medicine

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