Israeli health care scores well compared to West [p. 3]

Report finds limited discrimination in quality of service.

The level of Israeli medical practice in five key areas is relatively high compared to that in other Western countries, according to a 62-page report issued Tuesday by the Israel Institute for Health Policy and Health Services Research at Tel Hashomer, and the Israel Health Council. National quality indicators show the four health funds are providing most health care on an egalitarian basis, irrespective of one's income, place of residence, sex or age. The National Indicators System report is the second released since 2004, when the Health Ministry declared the comparisons of performances by the four health funds as a "national project." Health Minister Dan Naveh said in reaction to the report that he was pleased to see that the insurers were improving their disease treatment and prevention for their members. He added that the project, initiated by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev researchers, was a "revolution in Israeli medical services." The National Indicators System project was launched as a research study by Prof. Avi Porat, who is its director and a senior researcher in BGU's health sciences department. Prior to the project, the four health funds refused to supply the government or any other institution with data on how well they were diagnosing, preventing and treating disease. The new report, covering 2002 to 2004, looks at the health funds‚ diagnosis and treatment of diabetes and cardiovascular disease; asthma in children; use of mammography to detect breast cancer in women; and immunizing high-risk populations against influenza. Although the health funds were found not to discriminate against the poor, the elderly or those living in outlying or development areas, the researchers did find "discrepancies in favor of insured who are not qualified for a discount or exemption for health services." In addition, the report said that "a small portion of the indicators are beginning to show a slow trend toward improvement from year to year. These areas will necessitate renewed investigation and in-depth discussion with the aim of uncovering any obstacles to continued improvement." The efficient collection and comparison of data based on uniform standards and evidence-based medicine - which has been introduced in a number of Western countries - was made possible by digitalization of many health fund procedures and records, and the growing medical consensus on disease prevention and treatment. Among the findings was that 25 percent of asthmatics (including children) and 32% of the general adult population are getting getting flu shots. Older women were found, however, to be less likely to receive preventive medication than older men. Diabetes has been diagnosed in 3.6% of the general population and 5.4% among adults, and more diabetics are getting the necessary tests. About 40% of diabetics are maintaining good control of their blood sugar, while 43% have lowered their "bad cholesterol" level to the target level. About two-thirds of the target population of different ages has been tested for blood cholesterol levels.