Italian healthcare is digital ready. The pandemic has accelerated the development of tele-consultation, tele-visit, tele-monitoring. The use of teleconsultation by medical specialists has almost doubled during the emergency (from 21% to 47% of use) and over 8 out of 10 doctors now would like to use this tool in the future. More than 80% of patients are ready to use digital platforms and electronic health records. However, concrete projects are needed to get digital off the ground. An example is WelCare presented as part of the ‘Connected health’ event, promoted by Novartis.
The WelCare telemedicine platform expands its potential connecting centers and medical specialists in oncology and hematology from all over Italy, to facilitate the exchange of information and improve the management of patients with diseases such as: breast cancer, melanoma, chronic myeloproliferative neoplasms (Mpn), mastocytosis, chronic myeloid leukemia (Cml), but also patients who are candidates for treatment with Car-T.
At the meeting, which involved experts from the scientific world, representatives of institutions and patient associations, the data of the analysis carried out by the Digital Innovation Observatory in Health of the School of Management of the Politecnico di Milano were presented, according to which the pandemic has favored the use of digital collaboration platforms between doctors and patients, with patient use rose nearly 20 percentage points during the emergency (from 11% to 30%). Today 82% of the patients interviewed say they want to use these platforms in the future.
Born last year, in full pandemic, thanks to the collaboration between Novartis and Welmed, the WelCare telemedicine platform has fostered the exchange of information between doctors and the delivery centers of Car-T advanced therapy. Based on this experience, Novartis has decided to extend the project by expanding the WelCare platform, to connect medical specialists who, in addition to Car-T, also deal with patients with other oncological and haematological pathologies throughout Italy. WelCare is the first step in Novartis’ broader path and commitment to telemedicine, which will continue with new tools, to directly reach the patient in the area, in support of areas such as that of general medicine.
WelCare responds to the needs of doctors and patients, as confirmed by data from theDigital Innovation Observatory in Healthcare of the School of Management of the Politecnico di Milano. In fact, the analysis reveals that there is a high propensity to use telemedicine among specialist doctors, with 81% of the interviewees who would like to use teleconsultation and over 6 out of 10 doctors who would like to use television and telemonitoring tools. “The pandemic – as he reiterated Paolo Locatelli, scientific director of the Digital Innovation Observatory in Healthcare, during the event – encouraged the use of digital collaboration platforms between doctors and patients, with use by Italian patients that increased by almost 20 percentage points during the emergency (from 11% to 30%). Even among medical specialists, the pandemic has favored the use of teleconsultation tools (with an increase from 21% to 47% of use), television, used during the emergency by 39% of specialist doctors (compared to 13% who used before Covid) and, finally, telemonitoring tools, which have gone from 13% to 28% of users “.
Among the Italians who use digital applications for health, almost half (46%) said they feel more aware of their pathology and their health in general and 42% believe they have support from the Apps to respect their care plan. The most used applications are those dedicated to lifestyle, used by 33% of the interviewees, followed by the Apps that remember the taking of drugs (22%) and those that help to keep clinical parameters under control (21%). The Observatory’s analysis also shows a high propensity of patients in Italy to use digital communication channels to interface with their doctor. Instant messaging applications are enjoying the greatest success, with almost all of the patients interviewed (96%) declaring themselves inclined to use it in the future and half of the sample was already accustomed to using these communication tools (50%) before the pandemic emergency.
Telemedicine also opens up new possibilities for managing clinical practice, starting with the systematization of large amounts of data, as he explained Fabrizio Pane, full professor of hematology at the Federico II University of Naples and director of hematology AF of the same university hospital.
“The use of digital technologies in clinical practice – he highlighted – allows the collection and management of Big Data, of scientific and clinical value, which in the future will also play an increasingly important role in informing diagnostic and therapeutic decisions. Exchange platforms between specialist doctors, such as WelCare, make it possible to develop new models of organization of clinical practice, in a more collaborative and effective perspective. “Through digitalization, it brings advantages in terms of quality of care and management of health resources. Shared access to the medical record, the exchange of files and tools for multidisciplinary discussion made possible by the WelCare platform favor the shared management of the patient among several doctors in the area, increasingly necessary for effective patient care.
“The management of patients such as oncological patients passes through complex diagnostic, therapeutic and assistance paths, which often require close collaboration between specialized centers and treatment centers in the territory – said Saverio Cinieri, elected president of oncologists (Aiom) – With telemedicine this logic is simplified and improved, because thanks to digital technologies we can make the data travel and not the patient, with significant savings and with a significant impact on the lives of patients and their families“.
The patient becomes, with digital innovation, an increasingly active protagonist of his own health. “Telemedicine puts the patient at the center in a new way, changing his role, the relationship with the doctor and favoring simplification, to the advantage of the quality and continuity of care – he commented. Antonio Gaudioso, President of Cittadinanzattiva – We face an important tool for reducing inequalities, overcoming barriers and promoting more equal access for all patients to quality care. To fully realize this equity potential we must first address issues that concern the digitization of citizens, management transparency and the protection of patient privacy“.
A scenario that calls for the efforts of all parties, including companies and private entities, which can support and encourage specific projects. And it is precisely from the public-private collaboration that the WelCare platform is born.
“The experience gained during the months of the emergency has shown us the great value of this tool and has led us today to expand this platform for the management of other oncological and haematological diseases – said Luigi Boano, General Manager of Novartis Oncology Italy – An impact, that of WelCare on the health management of cancer patients, which we are committed to concretely evaluate, in order to thoroughly analyze the real contribution of digital health to improving the health system “.