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June 2015
Jochanan Benbassat MD

This paper summarizes the difficulties that may emerge when the same care-provider attends to private and public patients within the same or different clinical settings. First, I argue that blurring the boundaries between public and private care may start a slippery slope leading to “black” under-the-table payments for preferential patient care. Second, I question whether public hospitals that allow their doctors to attend to private patients provide an appropriate learning environment for medical students and residents. Finally, I propose a way to both maintain the advantages of private care and avoid its negative consequences: complete separation between the public and the private health care systems.


August 2014
Reuben Baumal MD, Jochanan Benbassat MD and Julie A.D. Van
"Clinician-scientists" is an all-inclusive term for board-certified specialists who engage in patient care and laboratory-based (biomedical) research, patient-based (clinical) research, or population-based (epidemiological) research. In recent years, the number of medical graduates who choose to combine patient care and research has declined, generating concerns about the future of medical research. This paper reviews: a) the various current categories of clinician-scientists, b) the reasons proposed for the declining number of medical graduates who opt for a career as clinician-scientists, c) the various interventions aimed at reversing this trend, and d) the projections for the future role of clinician-scientists. Efforts to encourage students to combine patient care and research include providing financial and institutional support, and reducing the duration of the training of clinician-scientists. However, recent advances in clinical and biomedical knowledge have increased the difficulties in maintaining the dual role of care-providers and scientists. It was therefore suggested that rather than expecting clinician-scientists to compete with full-time clinicians in providing patient care, and with full-time investigators in performing research, clinician-scientists will increasingly assume the role of leading/coordinating interdisciplinary teams. Such teams would focus either on patient-based research or on the clinical, biomedical and epidemiological aspects of specific clinical disorders, such as hypertension and diabetes.
July 2008
R. Baumal and J. Benbassat

Research in the acquisition of patient interviewing skills by medical students has dealt mostly with the evaluation of the effectiveness of various teaching programs and techniques. The educational approaches (i.e., the tutor-learner relationship and learning atmosphere) have rarely been discussed. These approaches may be grouped into: a) "teacher-centered" (didactic), in which the students are passive recipients of instruction; b) "learner-centered," in which the tutor functions as a facilitator of small group learning, whose task is not to teach but rather to ensure that all students participate in the discussions and share knowledge with other students; and c) "integrated learner-and teacher-centered" or "experiential learning," which consists of an ongoing dialogue between the tutor and the students. In this paper, we review the strengths and weaknesses of these educational approaches and attempt to identify the current trends in their use in the teaching of interviewing skills. It would appear to us that, until the 1960s, medical students acquired interviewing skills without any expert guidance. On the other hand, since the 1970s, there has been a tendency to offer and upgrade undergraduate programs aimed at imparting communication skills to medical students. Initially, these programs were didactic; however, during the last decade, there has been an increasing shift to teaching interviewing skills by promoting experiential learning.

April 2006
G. Ofer, B. Rosen, M. Greenstein, J. Benbassat, J. Halevy and S. Shapira

Background: Debate continues in Israel as to whether to allow patients in public hospitals to choose their physician in return for an additional, out-of-pocket payment. One argument against this arrangement is that the most senior physicians will devote most of their time to private patients and not be sufficiently available to public patients with complex cases.

Objectives: To analyze the patterns of surgical seniority in Jerusalem hospitals from a number of perspectives, including the extent to which: a) opting for private care increases the likelihood of being treated by a very senior surgeon; b) public patients undergoing complex operations are being treated by very senior surgeons, c) the most senior surgeons allocate a significant portion of their time to private patients.

Methods: Demographic and clinical data were retrieved from the operating room records of three of the public hospitals in Jerusalem for all 38,840 operations performed in 2001. Of them, roughly 6000 operations (16%) were performed privately. Operations were classified as "most complex," "moderately complex" and "least complex" by averaging the independent ratings of eight medical and surgical experts. The surgeon's seniority was graded as "tenured" (tenured board-certified specialists, including department heads), "senior" (non-tenured board-certified specialists), and "residents." For each operation, we considered the seniority of the lead surgeon and of the most senior surgeon on the surgical team.

Results: The lead surgeon was of tenured rank in 99% of the most complex private cases and 74% of the most complex public cases, in 93% of the moderately complex private and 35% of the moderately complex public cases, and in 92% of the least complex private and 32% of the least complex public cases. The surgical team included a tenured physician in 97%, 66%, and 53% of the most complex, moderately complex, and least complex public operations, respectively. In both private and public cases, a board-certified (tenured or senior) specialist was a member of the surgical team for almost all of the most complex and moderately complex operations. On average, over half of the operations in which the lead surgeon was a department head were performed on public patients. Among tenured surgeons, those who spent more hours than their colleagues leading private operations also tended, on average, to spend more hours leading public operations.

Conclusions: Private patients have an advantage over public patients in terms of the seniority of the lead surgeon. However, there is also substantial involvement of very senior surgeons in the treatment of public patients, particularly in those cases that are most complex. 

August 2002
Rachel Goldwag, MSW, Ayelet Berg, PhD, Dan Yuval, PhD and Jochanan Benbassat, MD

Background: Patient feedback is increasingly being used to assess the quality of healthcare.

Objective: To identify modifiable independent determinants of patient dissatisfaction with hospital emergency care.

Methods: The study group comprised a random sample of 3,152 of the 65,966 adult Israeli citizens discharged during November 1999 from emergency departments in 17 of the 32 acute care hospitals in Israel. A total of 2,543 (81%) responded to a telephone survey tht used a structured questionnaire. The ndependent variables included: hospital characteristics, patient demographic variables, patient perception of care, self-rated health status, problem severity, and outcome of care. The dependent variable was dissatisfaction with overall ED[1] experience on a 1–5 Likert-type scale dichotomized into not satisfied (4 and 5) and satisfied (1,2 and 3).

Results: Eleven percent of the population reported being dissatisfied with their emergency room visit. Univariate analyses revealed that dissatisfaction was significantly related to ethnic group, patient education, hospital identity and geographic location, perceived comfort of ED facilities, registration expediency, waiting times, perceived competence and attitudes of caregivers, explanations provided, self-rated health status, and resolution of the problem that led to referral to the ED. Multivariate analyses using logistic regressions indicated that the four most powerful predictors of dissatisfaction were patient perception of doctor competence and attitudes, outcomes of care, ethnicity, and self-rated health status.

Conclusions: Attempts to reduce dissatisfaction with emergency care should focus on caregiver conduct and attitudes. It may also be useful to improve caregiver communication skills, specifically with ethnic minorities and with patients who rate their health status as poor.


ED = emergency department

May 2001
Ayelet Berg, PhD, Dan Yuval, PhD, Michal Ivancovsky, MBA, Sima Zalcberg, MSc, Avigail Dubani and Jochanan Benbassat, MD

Background: Patients who feel involved in their treatment have better outcomes than those who do not.

Objective: To identify determinants of perceived patient involvement in obstetric care.

Methods: A retrospective study was undertaken in 1,452 (83%) of 1,750 women sampled in November 1995 from maternity wards of 14 general hospitals in Israel. A postal and telephone survey using a self-administered questionnaire included the following variables: hospital (identity number), patients' age, self-reported complications, previous deliveries, education, ethnicity, and number of obstetric interventions performed and/or considered. The main outcome measured was the reported involvement in decisions for obstetric interventions.

Results: Reported full involvement varied from 72% for epidural analgesia to 13% for forceps/vacuum extraction. Factor analysis identified two dimensions of perceived involvement: one for routine” interventions (enema, monitor­ing, IV line and episiotomy), which are performed in Israel mostly by midwives, and another for "special" interventions (forceps/vacuum extraction, epidural or other analgesia, and cesarian section) performed by physicians. Logistic regression identified hospitals, younger age, number of interventions, and Arab ethnicity as correlates of a perceived non-involvement in decisions for "special" interventions.

Conclusions: Clinical setting, age and ethnicity affected patient perception of involvement in decisions for obstetric interventions.

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.

September 2000
Paul Froom, MD, Estela Kristal-Boneh, PhD, Samuel Melamed, PhD, Gil Harari, MSc, Jochanan Benbassat, MD and Joseph Ribak, MD, MPH

Background: The degree to which serum total cholesterol predicts cariovascular disease is uncertain. While most authors have placed TC among the most powerful risk indicators of CVD, some have claimed that it predicted CVD in women only, or even not at all.

Objective: To determine the predictive value of serum total cholesterol relative to diabetes, smoking, systolic blood pressure and body mass index (kg/m2), for cardiovascular disease mortality in 3,461 occupationally active Israeli males.

Methods: A prospective follow-up was carried out for the years 1987-1998 to determine the effect of age, smoking habits, a history of diabetes, SBP, BMI and TC, at entry, on CVD mortality.

Results: There were 84 CVD deaths during a total of 37,174 person-years follow up. The hazard ratios (95% confidence intervals) for CVD mortality with respect to variables at entry were: diabetes 5.2 (2.1-13.2), age 2.2 (1.7-2.9), smoking 1.3 (1.0-1.8), SBP 1.4 (1.1-2.0), TC 1.5 (1.0-2.1) and BMI 1.2 (0.7-2.2). Among non-obese, non-diabetic, normotensive subjects the hazard ratio of TC adjusted for age and smoking was 1.16 (1.09-1.22) per 10 mg/dl. In the remaining subjects it was 1.04 (0.98-1.12) only. There was a significant interaction between TC and diabetes, hypertension or obesity (P=0.003).

Conclusions: In this population of Israeli males we found an interaction between TC and other risk indicators for CVD. Confirmation is required for the unexpected finding that the predictive value of TC for CVD mortality among non-diabetic, non-obese and normotensive subjects exceeded that among subjects with either of these risk factors.

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.



GIM= general internal medicine

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