Zalman Gurevichface comm jul 16.JPG

Computer Systems Engineer (retired)

North York 


We recently spent a few months in Israel, where I
learned a lot about its health care system. I would
like to use this opportunity to share my impressions about it, from the perspective of my area of expertise.

Israel's healthcare system has been computerized for over 20 years, and is considered one of the most efficient in the world. As in many European countries, it is built on the efficient use of public health insurance and paid medical services. Compulsory health insurance is provided mainly by four health insurance companies. Each family becomes a member of one of these health insurance plans. Monthly payments to the health insurance funds are paid in proportion to the income of citizens. Seniors and people with low incomes pay a minimum monthly contributions to their health insurance companies, and thus still receive full service.

Health insurance companies in turn provide all types of care, including medical and nursing staff of hospitals and clinics, diagnostic facilities and laboratories, subsidized medicines, as well as the work of dentists, physiotherapists etc. Depending on the type of health insurance, as well as any type of medical services, patients may be required to pay additional fees for certain services.

Each member of the health insurance fund has its own magnetic health card that looks similar to the Canadian by OHIP card, but radically different in essence: It contains detailed information about the state of the person’s health.

Making an appointment with the family doctor, a specialist, a laboratory for analysis, etc. can be done via the Internet, smartphone app or by telephone in the patient's language: Hebrew, English, Russian, and others.

The entrance to each clinic has a special card reader where patients swipe their card and receive a number to wait for the doctor. In the corridors next to the doctor's office are monitors that display which number is currently beings served, so people know approximately how long they need to wait.

In doctors' offices, you will not see the endless shelves of files with the patient's history and no assistants taking notes or lugging medical records. Everything is computerized. The doctor takes in the patient, inserts the medical card into his/her computer, and instantly retrieves comprehensive patient medical history, including all test results, medical prescriptions, and records of previous visits. This completely
eliminates the need for the ubiquitous folders of information that physicians have generally used in Canada.

To visit a specialist, a referral from the family doctor is required, and then the appointment can be made online or by phone, with the patient selecting the most convenient time and location. Each medical specialist uses the same medical records (regardless of which city or clinic they work in). The patient is charged a small, administrative fee for a visit to a specialist (about 10 Canadian dollars).

Services by a dentist can be accessed both privately and with the assistance of the health insurance fund. The results of medical tests are obtained not by contacting the doctor, but by logging into the online portal or visiting the clinic the same evening and receiving a printout – all with detailed explanations and instructions.

Prescriptions can be obtained in pharmacies at clinics or in private pharmacies and there are often discounts when presenting the medical card.

Israeli pharmacies stock both known pharmaceutical companies from around the world, including European and North American firms, as well as Israel's own producers, such as the well-known pharmaceutical company "Teva". Many expensive drugs (e.g., for the treatment of "Hepatitis C") are heavily subsidized by health insurance, and are available to members of the health insurance plans.

Medical tourism is a significant source of income to the Israeli medical industry and medical specialists. In fact, many Israeli hospitals have a Medical Tourism Division.

The high level and unique methods of Israeli medicine in cardiology, oncology, trauma, and many other fields are well-known and recognized worldwide.

These are just some of the facts about the healthcare system in Israel. There are other fascinating aspects of life in Israel, and in my opinion they are also worthy of attention, but that's a topic for another discussion.