Technology Changes the Face of Healthcare in Rural Israel

Electronic medical records and e-Pharmacies give Israel's underserved regions a modernized healthcare infrastructure that reduces errors and vastly improves communication.

Throughout Israel’s southern region, much of its sparsely populated rural areas are marked by poverty and limited access to the resources and services widely available in cities.

Distant from the concentrated hubs of the country, this periphery of Israel is significantly medically underserved. In addition to pervasive health illiteracy, patients face onerous travel between homes and medical facilities as well as shortages of hospital beds and specialists. To overcome the burden of access issues brought on by constraints of distance and capacity, the delivery of more efficient and effective medical technologies is critical to improving patient care.

To enhance both the quality and delivery of medical care to these disparate and underserved populations, the Helmsley Charitable Trust has provided Clalit Health Services’ two southern hospitals with a grant to install an Electronic Medical Records (EMR) system and an e-pharmacy program. The systems help to reduce errors, prevent repetitive testing and vastly improve communication between hospitals and primary care physicians, yielding a more cost-effective hospital environment with greater patient satisfaction and care.

...The EMR and e-pharmacy projects have revolutionized medical care for over one million people in southern Israel.

Dr. Michael Sherf, Clalit deputy director 

In areas particularly under stress, EMR technology extends the effectiveness of hospitals by linking to electronic records programs already in place at local clinics and sharing key information among the various professionals caring for patients. Prior to the implementation of this work, overburdened community clinics could not integrate with the southern hospitals’ non-electronic records, leaving medical personnel with a significant gap in patient information.

Clalit Health Services, Israel’s leading healthcare organization, has been at the forefront of the country’s healthcare system since 1948 and covers most of the nation’s minorities and vulnerable populations, including many of the residents in the rural periphery and along the southern border. Today, it proudly serves as one of the world’s most progressive public health associations, keeping at its core a humanitarian principle of providing care and healing for all residents across Israel.

With Clalit’s EMR system now fully in place, records in rural hospitals can be searched and used to track, share, analyze and chart voluminous clinical medical information. Physicians’ orders can be issued, saved and maintained far more efficiently. The systems house reliable datasets for epidemiological studies, providing an immense additional benefit for disease prevention in the southern region. Further, implementation of the e-pharmacy program minimizes dosage and duplication errors, advancing the seamless availability of accurate patient information.

Mali Mamman, a senior nurse at Soroka Medical Center, one of the two southern Clalit hospitals, detailed the outcomes from the EMR integration: “The documentation of clinical measurements like vital signs is much more efficient than it was before. Clinical information is easily accessible by one click from every computer station.”

The immediate success of this initiative grew in part from the invaluable input provided by staff from the Trust’s Rural Healthcare Program, which has funded the pioneering use of e-technology systems in hospitals and health facilities throughout America’s rural upper Midwest, the most medically underserved area of the U.S. Working closely together, the Trust’s Israel and Rural Healthcare teams collaborated with Clalit to design and execute the rollout of these technologies in order to maximize their reach and impact in improving health outcomes for Israel’s rural southern populations.

“Clalit Health Services is already making a lasting impact on Israeli healthcare by implementing high-tech services that result in significant, immediate improvements in the quality and safety of care, ensuring that all Israelis, including those who are most in need, have access to the best medical care possible regardless of geographic location,” said Helmsley trustee Sandor Frankel.

Enabling patients to consult with specialists in every area of Israel and empowering them to benefit from timely diagnoses and treatment plans, this work furthers the core tenets of Clalit’s dedication to continued advances in medical care.

"Thanks to the Helmsley Charitable Trust,” Clalit deputy director Dr. Michael Sherf said, “the EMR and e-pharmacy projects have revolutionized medical care for over one million people in southern Israel." Clalit is hopeful the medical record and pharmacy systems in the South can now serve as a model for the rest of the country.