Israeli health care professionals hone patient care skills in Burgh

Israeli health care professionals hone patient care skills in Burgh

Managing and improving patient care was the subject of a weeklong program sponsored by the Jewish Healthcare Foundation for the benefit of 10 visiting Israeli health care workers, who were here from Oct. 5 to 12.
The program, designed by the Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative (PRHI), presented innovative techniques to teams of Israeli physicians and nurses from Clalit Health Services, the largest of Israel’s four health plans.
Clalit covers 3.8 million people, or half of Israel’s population, and maintains 12 general and special care hospitals, in addition to operating 1,200 primary and specialized clinics, dental clinics and a network of 400 pharmacies.
The quality improvement initiative is part of an ongoing exchange among JHF, PRHI (a supporting organization of JHF) and colleagues in Israel to build a patient safety policy and action plan while exchanging ideas and findings from research initiatives.
The Israeli health care teams participated in a customized training program that focused on PRHI’s key principles of Perfecting Patient CareSM. The teams will take the principles they learned back to their health care facilities in Israel, and apply them to projects including infection reduction, discharge and transitions of care and readmissions prevention.
The health care workers in attendance were reportedly enthusiastic about what they learned, and eager to implement new techniques once they got home.
“The most important thing I learned is, you can make things more efficient and look at things from another perspective,” said Dr. Pnina Shitrit, senior physician in Meir Hospital’s infectious disease department. “Before, we were thinking big, and sometimes failing big. Now, we have learned to look at the things as a process, and how to improve step by step. We learned how to make things more efficient and safer for the patients.”
The methodology focused on how to best tackle various problems that arise in the health care industry.
“We basically learned the methodology of how to look at a problem and analyze it — how to get to the root of a problem,” said Dr. Yoel Oppenheimer, a family physician who is head of quality assurance in Clalit’s northern region. He is working on ways to improve the integration of care between Israel’s community health centers and its hospitals.
The Pittsburgh program presented an opportunity for an exchange of knowledge, allowing the Israeli teams to share some of their successful methods and techniques with their American counterparts.
“We were able to give them some insight,” Oppenheimer said. “We were able to explain the kinds of things we are doing there [in Israel] in terms of monitoring chronic conditions like diabetes, and preventative medicine. We are more advanced there in those areas than they are here.”
Because Israel has universal health coverage, its doctors are able to provide more services to its patients than are American doctors, said Dr. Marianna Mazar, deputy medical manager for Clalit, who specializes in family medicine, and works with quality assurance plans in Clalit’s Jerusalem district.
“Our system allows us to do more for our patients,” she said. “There is more accessibility; everyone has insurance. Doctors don’t need to ask patients about insurance, so we can be absorbed in the medical issues, and not insurance issues.”
The Israeli physicians said they were happy to have the opportunity to learn about the American health care system.
“We learned a lot about the American system,” Oppenheimer said. “It’s very complicated. I didn’t know it at all. It’s interesting to see it firsthand. And we met extraordinary people at the Jewish Healthcare Foundation.”
“We learned a lot of new things,” Mazar said. “I haven’t worked in the States, so I didn’t know the system here. I learned a lot about the beautiful things that are done here. I also could see how our small country, with little resources and funds, does a great job in its medical services. It makes us proud.”
Once back in Israel, the program will provide follow-up resources to the Israeli teams to help them implement what they learned.
“I think we will need a lot more teaching and coaching and escort on the way,” Shitrit said. “This was only a taste. Now we have to practice this new way of working. I’m hoping this will become a real partnership, and we will go hand in hand along the way.”

(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at

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