Home care services for cancer patients: inequitable provision across Italy

A study done by Johns Hopkins University makes a promising discovery- elderly people with vision loss are more likely to suffer from cognitive decline.  If this data is confirmed, we can look forward to more focused and functional pharmacological care, both in terms of prevention and treatment.

Home care services for a disease that has become chronic- cancer 

The following statistics were released in a conference promoted by the Italian Society of Medical Oncology (Aiom). Italy records 3.4 million people that survive after a cancer diagnosis, a number that increases by 3% each year. While the number of cases in Italy is rising (1,000 new cases each day), the number of deaths has remained the same (485 per day). Another words, cancer is becoming a chronic disease, owing to the new treatments made available by advancements in research. There are many new, effective weapons, such as immunology and molecular targeted therapies, that can be used in addition to surgery, chemotherapy, hormonotherapy and radiotherapy in treating cancer. As explained by Stefania Gori, the president of AIOM, 63% of women and 54% of men in Italy today survive more than 5 years after diagnosis, putting survival rates in Italy equal or above the European average. Given the large number of chronic cancer patients that are over 70 years old, home care services are essential to dealing with this situation. 


Statistics that need to be improved

The problem with home care assistance programs in Italy is that they exist, but are not evenly distributed throughout the country. More services are offered in some regions than in others with the lowest level of services in the south. Take breast cancer units for example. There are 212 breast units in Italy, with 72% (120) in the North, 68% (57) in the Center and 43% (35) in the South.  These regional differences are even more apparent when it comes to home care services, which are guaranteed only by 65% of oncology units in Italy. Here again, the South is at a disadvantage. Only 52% of health care facilities guarantee home care services in the South compared to 70% in the North. Adequate palliative home care services would reduce hospital stays from 20 to 4 days, resulting in up to €2,000 saved per patient. 

Technological improvements in diagnostics, surgery and radiotherapy must also be made in health care centers. Radiotherapy is currently used to treat 70% of patients and it is estimated that this number will rise by more than 15% in the next ten years. Health care centers must, thus, be well-equipped. 

There are many improvements to be made to the healthcare system and the biggest obstacle is always the cost. Only the cost of more innovative anticancer drugs has increased from 3.3 million euros in 2012 to more than 5 million euros in 2017. One solution for reducing these costs could be to use biological drugs, which would bring about a savings of 20%. This would create an economic resource that could be put towards programs such as home care services. The three-year €500 million fund for the purchase of innovative oncology drugs that was created expires this year. Hopefully it will be renewed.  

© Domedica s.r.l.

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