We can no longer afford to underestimate, or even worse, ignore the data. The estimated number of patients with chronic diseases in Italy today is more than 24 million, burdening the national healthcare system with costs around 67 billion euros per year. The ageing population of Italy means this number is destined to rise even more each year. And while the average age of Italians is progressively rising, there is no real generational turnover. Italy has the highest percentage of elderly in Europe and ranks among the highest in the world. How can the healthcare system be made more effective given these percentages?
Healthcare workers and patients
In light of the elevated number of patients with chronic diseases, the National Plan for Chronic Diseases was approved by the State-Regions Conference in 2016 with the objective of guaranteeing adequate assistance for patients. Research performed by FabLab tried to assess whether or not assistance for patients with chronic diseases was subject to sufficient standards. The study was performed on a sample of 1500 people, made up in equal parts of patients, pharmacists and doctors. The information that was gathered was done so with the purpose of understanding how to improve a patient’s quality of life. The first data that emerged was the skepticism patients have towards healthcare workers. The most worrying aspect is that healthcare workers do not often agree with patients and patients generally complain that healthcare workers keep their distance.
Another interesting fact that emerged from the research is that patients put a lot of trust in their pharmacists, but are reluctant to trust pharmaceutical companies, preferring individual medicines over brands. Finally, the vast majority of patients agree that more effective remote support services are needed.
A glimpse into the future: remote support
The desire to use remote support services is due, on one hand, to a need to survive within our national healthcare system and, on the other, eventually as a way to modernize the role of the general practitioner. Professions evolve and the way the medical profession is carried out is not an exception. According to Fablab, one of the more frequent requests made by patients is to contact their doctor via chat with questions about disease management, remote monitoring of therapy, to request information about managing side effects, or even, more generally speaking, to request informative material.
The world of digital healthcare is moving more and more in the direction of more independent patients who receive support from their doctors, which could potentially revolutionize the effectiveness of the national healthcare system and research from different points of view. We only need to learn how to adapt.