Survey: Israelis 'more satisfied' with health services

"Those who expect less, get less," says health expert.

Hospital generic 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski  [file])
Hospital generic 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
A new study conducted for the Health Ministry shows that the population's general satisfaction with the health system and how they view the level of their health fund's services increased during the last two years. However, this is not due to a significant increase of expenditure by the insurers on what they provide but largely because of an improvement in economic growth. The late-2007 survey (which updates a similar survey done in 2005) of nearly 1,900 adults comprising a random sample was conducted by Prof. Revital Gross, Shuli Bramli-Greenberg and Ruthie Weitzburg of the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute in Jerusalem and released by both the institute and the ministry on Monday. The team found that 88 percent said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their health funds, with services provided by Kupat Holim Meuhedet rating the highest (at 94%), followed by Maccabi Health Services (92%), Kupat Holim Leumit (86%) and Clalit Health Services (85%). The sector with the highest satisfaction were Israeli Arabs (94%). Asked to comment, leading Ben-Gurion University of the Negev health economics Prof. Dov Chernichovsky told The Jerusalem Post that "in general, satisfaction with health services is much higher compared to education and other public services. Assessing satisfaction in health care is a problem, as the most satisfied groups - Arabs, the elderly, lower-income earners and new immigrants - generally receive lower levels of services and have low expectations. "It's a paradox, and it depends on the reference point. One can't necessarily see a correlation between investment in services for a particular group in the population and its satisfactions from services." The Brookdale survey found that compared to the 2005 study, residents were more satisfied in 2007 with the professional level of their family physicians and specialists, as well as the attitude of nurses and bureaucrats. The amount of reported time waiting to see a doctor for an appointment remained the same - 63% were in the queue for up to 15 minutes and 17% for over half an hour. Those who said that it "wasn't at all difficult to get medical care when I needed it" rose from 46% two years ago to 56% today. Two-thirds of women over 50 have undergone a mammography during the previous two years (as recommended), a 3% increase and the percentage of those receiving flu vaccination among the elderly dropped from 56% in 2005 to 46% this winter. Nearly half - a stable rate - were tested for their blood pressure during the previous six months. There was a decline in the reported economic burden of medical payments for medications and services from 27% to 22%, even among the socio-economically disadvantaged. Only 11% said they had to forgo medical treatment or drugs because they couldn't afford co-payments, compared to 15% in 2005. Almost a fifth of survey participants said they had gone for complementary medical services during the previous three months, compared to almost a quarter in 2005. The survey also found that 80% of the public hold supplementary health insurance policies provided by their health fund, but only 28% had both those policies and commercial health insurance (down from 31%). Of those with supplementary policies, 10% were very satisfied, 41% satisfied and 19% not so satisfied. Just 15% who had supplementary policies and 18% of those with commercial insurance said they had difficulty getting treatment or services from them. Of those 85% who said they went to their family doctor during the previous year, 15% said he or she did not devote enough time. A quarter of those surveyed said they had suffered from emotional stress during the past year that was difficult to cope with alone, compared to 39% during 2005. Doctors rarely query patients about any emotional problems they have such as depression, anxiety or concentration problems. Of those who didn't turn to a doctor for help for such difficulties, 60% said they felt they could handle it themselves, while the minority complained that the treatment was expensive or the waiting time was too long. The researchers said an in-depth analysis of the findings - such as comparisons among health funds and different population groups as well as long-term trends - will follow.