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עמוד בית
Thu, 22.02.24

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September 2003
E.L. Shabtai, M. Ben-Haim, D. Rosin, J. Kuriansky, E. Gazit, A. Ayalon and M. Shabtai

Background: An organ sharing system should achieve fairness and optimal graft longevity. Balancing between social and utilitarian considerations is a sensitive ethical, public and medical issue that requires a means to examine the consequences of any allocation policy or planned changes thereof.

Objective: To evaluate the performance and applicability of a computerized simulation model by examining the impact of two opposing organ allocation policies (social or utilitarian) on predicted organ distribution regarding age, waiting time, recipient sensitization measured by panel reactive antibody level and overall donor-recipient tissue matching (measured by the number of HLA antigen mismatches).

Methods: Using a computerized simulation model, virtual donors and recipients were emulated and organs were allocated according to either social algorithms or utilitarian policies. The resulting number of HLA mismatches, PRA[1], age, and waiting time distributions were compared between allocation strategies.

Results: Simulating allocation of 7,000 organs to 17,000 candidate recipients and implementing social policies yielded donor-recipient compatibility comparable to utilitarian policies (0–1 mm: 19.4% vs. 28%) while allocating 66.7% of organs to long waiters (>48 months).

Conclusion: This computerized simulation model is a valuable tool for decision-makers establishing or modifying organ allocation policies.






[1] PRA = panel reactive antibody


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



 
February 2003
D. Glick, H. Soreq

Behavioral genetics is the identification of behavioral traits that are genetically determined, the identification of the genes that are involved, and the discovery of modes of intervention to alter the expected course of the disease. Unlike the classical Mendelian traits, many specific aspects of behavior are, in part, determined by several genes. The corresponding abnormalities of behavior or deficiencies are therefore polygenic. New genetic techniques are leading to the discovery of these genes, and the techniques and knowledge developed in the Human Genome Project make it possible to screen the genome of any individual for the presence of known polymorphisms. This raises great hopes for diagnosis and the individualization of therapy. However, the genetic prediction of unacceptable behavior can further lead to social and occupational discrimination and enforced therapy. This raises serious concerns about how this information will be collected and who will have access to it.

January 2003
M. Huerta, R.D. Balicer and A. Leventhal

During September 2002, Israel began its current revaccination program against smallpox, targeting previously vaccinated “first responders” among medical and emergency workers. In order to identify the potential strengths and weaknesses of this program and the conditions under which critical decisions were reached, we conducted a SWOT analysis of the current Israeli revaccination program, designed to identify its intrinsic strengths and weaknesses, as well as opportunities for its success and threats against it. SWOT analysis – a practical tool for the study of public health policy decisions and the social and political contexts in which they are reached - revealed clear and substantial strengths and weaknesses of the current smallpox revaccination program, intrinsic to the vaccine itself. A number of threats were identified that may jeopardize the success of the current program, chief among them the appearance of severe complications of vaccination. Our finding of a lack of a generation of knowledge on smallpox vaccination urgently calls for improved physician education and dissipation of misconceptions that are prevalent in the public today.

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.

August 2001
Philip Sax, PhD

Background: It is not clear to what extent the drug economy in Israel's health maintenance organizations is responsive to major healthcare reforms.

Objective: To provide information on how drug expendi­tures, revenues, net costs and drug utilization have changed in the wake of the 1995 National Health Insurance Law in Israel.

Methods: This study compares trends in aggregate sick fund expenditures, revenues (patient co-payment) and net costs (expenditures less revenues) in Israel's four health maintenance organizations for the 3 year period 1992-1994 prior to the introduction in 1995 of the NHI Law, with that of the 4 year period 1995-1998 following its introduction. This analysis is similarly carried out for Israel’s largest HMO, Clalit Health Services, and for the three smaller HMOs combined.

Results: The pace of growth in the pre-NHI era in drug expenditures and particularly in drug revenues was drastically reduced in the NHI era - whether measured as totals or as per insured person (age-adjusted) or in real terms at constant medicine prices. These trends were mirrored to a large extent in

Conclusions: The impact of the NHI Law on the HMO drug economy has been substantial. The evidence suggests a decline in both the qualitative (basket of drugs consumed) and quantitative (volume of drugs consumed) elements of growth. These changes in expenditure and revenue trends are discussed in the light of the evolving involvement of the Israel Ministry of Health in drug policy within the framework of the NHI, with emphasis on the basket of drugs reimbursed and co­payments for prescriptions.

July 2001
Daniel Chemtob, MD, MPH, DEA, Leon Epstein, MD, MPH, Paul E. Slater, MD, MPH and Daniel Weiler-Ravell, MD
Background: Sensing an inadequacy of tuberculosis control due to an influx of TB associated with immigration, we analyzed TB treatment outcome in Israel by population groups.

Objectives:
To provide an epidemiological basis necessary for any new national TB control policy, and to bring it to the attention of the medical profession in Israel and abroad since its results led to a change in Israel’s TB control policy.

Methods:
We reviewed all TB cases notified during the period 1990 to September 1992. New cases” (820 cases, 93.5%) and “re-treatment cases” (57 cases, 6.5%) were analyzed according to three mutually exclusive groups: “successful outcome,” “death” and “potentially unsatisfactory outcome” (according to WHO/IUATLD definitions).

Results:
Of 820 “new cases,” 26.6% had a satisfactory outcome,” 68.5% had a “potentially unsatisfactory outcome” and 4.9% died compared to 47.4%, 45.6% and 7% among 57 “re-treatment cases,” respectively. Using logistic regression analysis, outcome was associated with the district health office (P<0.0001), the TB experience” of the notifying clinic (P<0.0001), and the form of TB (P=0.02). No significant relationships were obtained for population groups, gender and age, interval between arrival in Israel and TB notification, and bacteriological results.
Daniel Chemtob, MD, MPH, DEA, Leon Epstein, MD, MPH, Paul E. Slater, MD, MPH and Daniel Weiler-Ravell, MD

Background: Spinal dural arteriovenous fistulae comprise the majority of spinal vascular malformations. The most common clinical presentation is that of progressive myelor­adicuiopathy, probably related to venous hypertension, which may lead to permanent disability and even death.

Objective: To report our clinical experience with spinal dural arteriovenous fistulae.

Methods: Nine patients with spinal dural AVF were managed at our center during a one year period (1998-1999). The patients, eight men and one woman ranging in age from 46 to 75 years, presented with initially fluctuating and eventually permanent and progressive paraparesis, sensory disturbances and sphincter dysfunction. The neurological signs generally began symmetrically and progressed from the distal to proximal limb regions. The duration of symptoms before diagnosis ranged from 6 to 36 months during which the patients underwent an extensive but fruitless work-up and even unnecessary operations due to misdiagnosis. All patients finally underwent magnetic resonance imaging and spinal angiography, which demonstrated the pathological vascular fistula. Interruption of the AVF was achieved by embolization or by surgical resection.

Results: Following treatment, six patients experienced improvement of gait and sphincter control, and the severe neurological deficits stabilized in the other three patients with long duration of illness. There was no further deterioration in any of the treated patients.

Conclusions: The history, neurological findings and radiological changes on MRI scan should alert clinicians to the possibility of spinal dural AVF, leading to diagnostic spinal angiography. Early diagnosis and treatment may significantly improve outcome and prevent permanent disability and even mortality.

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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