If there is something good that will remain even after Covid, one of these is certainly telemedicine which for many patients – in the most difficult phases of the lockdown – has represented a lifeline, a beacon for not feeling alone and abandoned in their own disease. A legacy not to be lost, but on the contrary to be valued because now that Italians have experienced the usefulness of this formula of remote medical assistance they no longer want to do without it. This is demonstrated by the data of the analysis carried out by the Digital Innovation in Health Observatory of the School of Management of the Politecnico di Milano, according to which the pandemic has favored the use of digital collaboration platforms between doctors and patients, with use by patients rose by almost 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. This is where the launch of the WelCare telemedicine platform in oncology and hematology starts.
Doctors ready for telemedicine
Thanks to tele-consultation, tele-visit, tele-monitoring and various digital applications for health, the face of healthcare is changing with new tools for dialogue between doctors and patients but also innovative systems of collaboration between doctors. And the world of health is now ‘mature’ to concretely initiate telemedicine experiences. The analysis conducted by the Digital Innovation in Health Observatory of the School of Management of the Politecnico di Milano, presented today as part of the “La Salute Connessa” event promoted by Novartis, reveals, in fact, that there is a high propensity among medical specialists the use of telemedicine, with 81% of the interviewees who would like to resort to tele-consultation and over 6 out of 10 doctors who would like to use tele-visit and tele-monitoring tools.
More aware patients
Patients too are now ready for digitized medicine. The pandemic accelerated the use by Italian patients which rose by almost 20 percentage points during the emergency (from 11% to 30%). Today 82% of patients say they want to use these platforms in the future. Not only that: 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 apps to respect the own treatment plan. Furthermore, the analysis of the Observatory shows a high propensity of patients in Italy to use digital communication channels to interface with their doctor. Instant messaging applications are the most successful, with almost all patients interviewed (96%) declaring themselves willing to use it in the future and with half of the sample already accustomed to using these communication tools (50%) before of the pandemic emergency.
The management of Big Data
Telemedicine also opens up new possibilities for managing clinical practice, starting with the systematization of large amounts of data, as he explains. Fabrizio Pane, full professor of hematology at the Federico II University of Naples and director of AF hematology of the same University Hospital: “The use of digital technologies in clinical practice allows the collection and management of Big Data, of scientific and clinical value, which in future will also play an increasingly important role in informing diagnostic and therapeutic decisions. Exchange platforms between specialist doctors, such as WelCare, allow the development of new models of organization of clinical practice, in a more collaborative and effective perspective “.
The WelCare platform
The goal of the new WelCare telemedicine platform launched today is to connect centers and medical specialists 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. Born last year, in full pandemic, thanks to the collaboration between Novartis and Welmed, the WelCare telemedicine platform has favored the exchange of information between doctors and the delivery centers of Car-T advanced therapy. Based on this experience, the expansion of the WelCare platform was announced today, to connect medical specialists who, in addition to Car-T, also deal with patients with other oncological and haematological pathologies throughout Italy.
How does it work
The WelCare platform combines telemedicine and artificial intelligence, allowing doctors to exchange information on patients potentially eligible for therapy, to follow their screening and, after treatment, the follow-up. In fact, WelCare is a platform that allows remote consultation between oncologists and hematologists and the creation of collaboration networks between specialist centers and treatment centers in the area. The platform features include tools for multidisciplinary discussion, shared access to medical records and file exchange. A simplification that allows to improve the management of complex patients such as oncology and hematology. Furthermore, the data collected and contained within the platform’s database, made anonymous and structured, can further support clinicians, to do research and thus improve clinical practice.
The benefits for patients
From shared access to medical records, to the exchange of files and tools for multidisciplinary discussion, the WelCare platform favors the shared management of the patient among several doctors in the area, with advantages in terms of quality of care and management of health resources. “The management of patients such as cancer patients – he comments Saverio Cinieri, Aiom president-elect – passes through complex diagnostic, therapeutic and care pathways, which often require close collaboration between specialized centers and treatment centers in the area. 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 democracy of digitization
But there is another aspect of digitization that makes it an even more valuable tool and that is the possibility of breaking down inequalities in access to services. “Telemedicine focuses on the patient 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 underlines 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 potential for equity we must first of all address issues concerning the digitization of citizens, management transparency and the protection of patient privacy ”.