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עמוד בית
Tue, 05.12.23

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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.

August 2020
Máté Hidvégi PhD and Michele Nichelatti PhD

Background: The 2019 severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic continued into 2020, and the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) associated death toll increased.

Objectives: To analyze COVID-19 death rates in European countries or regions to determine whether there was a significant association between bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccination policy and lower rates of COVID-19 related deaths.

Methods: Certain Northern European countries or regions had low death rates regardless of BCG policy. The authors assumed the consumption of foods containing salmiak (NH4Cl) was a common and peculiar cause of the reduced COVID-19 related death rates in these countries, because NH4Cl is a known lysosomotropic agent, which has been indicated to inhibit or prevent SARS-CoV infection. To check the possible effectiveness of salmiak consumption against COVID-19 related death, the authors used a linear regression model with the death rate as the dependent variable and BCG-policy and salmiak consumption score as independent variables.

Results: Using least squares regression and a robust standard error algorithm, the authors found a significant effect exerted by the independent variables (P < 0.0005 for BCG and P = 0.001 for salmiak). Salmiak score alone was significant (P = 0.016) when using least squares regression with robust error algorithm. 

Conclusions: The results seem to confirm an association between BCG-positive vaccination policy and salmiak consumption, and lower death rates from COVID-19. Implementing BCG vaccination policy and fortification of foods with salmiak (NH4Cl) may have a significant impact on the control of SARS-CoV epidemic.

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.

July 2015
Oded Breuer MD, David Shoseyov MD, Eitan Kerem MD and Rebecca Brooks MD

Background: Treatment using inhaled bronchodilators for asthma with a metered dose inhaler attached to a spacer device (MDI+S) was shown to be as efficient as nebulizers. Nevertheless, nebulizers remain the treatment of choice in most hospitals. 

Objectives: To implement a policy change to improve asthma treatment in pediatric wards and the pediatric emergency department.

Methods: The study was performed in the emergency department and pediatric wards of a university medical center. The study group comprised all children admitted with a diagnosis of asthma necessitating treatment. The medical and nursing staff of both the pediatric emergency department and the pediatric wards was trained how to use metered dose inhalers attached to spacers on a regular basis in asthmatic pediatric patients. At a preset date nebulizers were replaced by spacers and their use was monitored by the supervising physician. Salbutamol was administered by metered dose inhaler (100 μg/puff) attached to a spacer device. The number of puffs was determined by severity of disease according to GINA recommendations. After 2 years the outcome and cost analysis were examined.

Results: During 3 years since the initial policy change 92.5% patients were treated with spacers throughout their hospital stay (emergency department and pediatric ward). Costs were reduced by an estimated 63%. 

Conclusions: In view of its many advantages the replacement of nebulizers by MDI+S for the treatment of acute asthma is feasible, if performed in collaboration with the staff, hospital authority and patients.


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

December 2008
Click here for article written by Orly Tamir, MHA, MSc, Joshua Shemer, MD, Mordechai Shani, MD, Sharona Vaknin, MSc and Miriam Ines Siebzehner, PhD, MPA, RN. IMAJ 2008: 12: December: 901-905
The Israeli Center for Technology Assessment in Health Care (ICTAHC) was established in 1998 at the Gertner Institute for Epidemiology and Health Policy Research, on foundations set in 1992 by the Medical Technology Assessment Unit. The Center is defined as an independent multidisciplinary research center, whose main aims are to assist in developing processes for the adoption of new technologies, identify and propose health priorities, and serve as an educational center for all stakeholders. Moreover, the Center promotes working relations with overseas counterparts as an essential component for expansion and advancement of the field of health technology assessment. Throughout the years, ICTAHC had contributed significantly to the development of the discipline of health technology assessment in Israel and to actual decision making in the health care system. The Center had outlined the principles, guidelines and overall framework for technology assessment in the country, as well as substantiating the discipline through various research areas, which materialized into a variety of technology-related policy accomplishments. Today, the Center serves as a national focal point in the health care system in Israel, as well as maintaining an active position in the international milieu. It has been a decade since the establishment of ICTAHC. This paper reviews the evolution of the center, describes changes in the HTA[1] field in Israel, identifies areas of focus and main research accomplishments, and illustrates the breadth of potential research scope and projections for the future.

[1] HTA = health technology assessment

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

March 2008
Z. Mor, A. Adler, A. Leventhal, I. Volovic, E. Rosenfeld, M.N. Lobato and D. Chemtob

Background: The crowded environment of correctional facilities may enhance infectious diseases transmission, such as tuberculosis.

Objectives: To define the tuberculosis burden in prisons in Israel, a country of low TB[1] incidence (7.9 cases:100,000 population in 2004), in which about 13,000 inmates are being incarcerated annually, and to recommend policy adaptations for TB control.

Methods: All prison clinic lung records from 1998 through 2004 in Israel were reviewed to identify pulmonary TB patients. Additionally, we reviewed TB epidemiological investigation files from one northern prison (years 2002 through 2005) to evaluate possible transmission of the disease.

Results: During the study period 23 Israeli inmates had pulmonary TB (25 cases/100,000 prisoners), which was 3.5 times higher than for the general population. Of those, 18 (78%) were born in the Former Soviet Union and immigrated to Israel after 1990. Four pulmonary TB cases in the evaluated prison were reported, and 22% (149/670) of all inmates and staff were referred for treatment of latent TB infection.

Conclusions: To prevent future TB cases, we recommend new prevention measures, including a symptom questionnaire for all new inmates and selective tuberculin skin testing for inmates infected with human immunodeficiency virus/AIDS, those who inject drugs, and those who emigrated from the former Soviet Union after 1990. New staff should be screened by the two-step tuberculin skin test and annual symptoms questionnaire thereafter. Incarceration may be used as a point of detection for TB and a window of opportunity for treatment in this hard-to-reach population. 

[1] TB =tuberculosis

May 2006
S. Rishpon

For children born after 1 January 2005, use of the Sabin oral polio vaccine in combination with the enhanced-potency Salk inactivated polio vaccine as part of the routine vaccination schedule was discontinued. The schedule now includes only IPV [1]. In September 2005, a fifth dose of pertussis vaccine was added for pupils in their second year of elementary school. This article describes the reasons for these changes, which have rendered Israel's routine vaccination program one of the most effective in the world.


[1] IPV = inactivated polio vaccine (Salk)

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