The Department of General Surgery at Sheba performs approximately 5,000 procedures every year, spanning the gamut from hernias to oncological surgeries. Just like at all the big Israeli government hospitals, surgeons are assigned to each patient’s case – without any input from the patient.
Over the years, a few hospitals have established exceptions to this rule, such as Rambam Hospital in Haifa, where individuals can choose their ENT surgeon, and at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, where patients can select a doctor to perform heart catheterization. In addition, recent legislative changes in Israeli insurance coverage have enabled people to choose their surgeon for procedures that are approved by their healthcare fund at a private hospital. However, these arrangements were not possible at any of the major governmental medical institutions.
As a result, many Israelis have been electing to pay for private care, which gives them the ability to choose their surgeon. Private healthcare also eliminates the typical hardship of waiting months for specialist appointments. Consequently, business in the private medical care sector has been booming, and these market forces are pushing changes in the medical system in Israel. Starting now, Sheba Medical Center is offering the same service of selecting a surgeon, yet with no charge.
“To assist people in making educated decisions about which surgeon to choose, Sheba will be publishing details about its surgeons’ abilities and expertise on the hospital website,” explains Prof. Arnon Afek, Associate Director and Acting Director of Sheba. “And if everyone chooses the same doctor, the line for that surgeon will simply be longer.” Subsequently, if this happens, it is anticipated that at least some patients will choose other surgeons.
This remarkable initiative, which has the potential to totally transform patient care, is the idea of Prof. Yitshak Kreiss, Director General of Sheba. Although the new model is not centralized through the government, it is expected that other large state-owned hospitals will follow Sheba’s lead in implementing this plan, as long as the pilot program is successful.