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Evaluating the consequences of health policy decisions.

Nimptsch U
Israel Journal of Health Policy Research
(2020) 9:19


Uncertainty about intended and possible unintended side effects makes it important to evaluate changes following health policy decisions. A recent IJHPR article by Greenberg et al. evaluated changes in emergency department care following a directive of the Israeli Ministry of Health to limit occupancy in internal medicine wards. Over a six-year observation period, they found that one-month mortality and one-week readmissions after ED visits remained unchanged, while increases in average ED visit length, as well as increased delay time from ED admission to ward were observed. These findings help to assess the impact of the occupancy limit directive and may support future health policy decisions.

However, the study by Greenberg et al. was limited by the unavailability of diagnostic data, and this illustrates a significant issue that transcends this particular study. In many countries, policy-relevant administrative data are not sufficiently available on a timely basis. Data availability is the prerequisite for monitoring developments in patterns of care following health policy changes. Besides conducting retrospective studies, timely availability of data makes it possible to establish monitoring systems which may help decision makers assess the impact of policy changes, identify undesired developments early, and recognize changes in need or demand of health services within the population.

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