Project work by the students of the Master of Scientist in the Company, edition 2017-2018, Eugenia Grazini, Filippo Alberto Abate and Carolina Spadaro.
The digitization of healthcare is nowadays a topic of particular interest in the health sector. Although there is ample evidence of the tangible benefits that digitisation is bringing to society and to the healthcare sector, the scepticism around the use of new digital applications in such a sensitive and private as the health sector is still particularly strong.
This is particularly true for the Mobile Medical Apps (MMA); they are software applications that meet the definition of “medical device” since they transform a generic mobile communication platform (smartphone, tablet) into a “regulated medical device”. APPs traded globally can be classified by functionality. Actually, there are about 165 thousand APPs dedicated to the health world, and the number is currently growing, perhaps because of the increase in chronic diseases requiring medical support and a continuous medical-patient relationship. This digitalisation has also encouraged the patients’ engagement in their pathway of care. Further, the ongoing relationship has often been shown to implement the patient’s trust in their doctor avoiding the “drop out” phenomenon, the abandonment of care.
In particular, the project work entitled “Observatory on the dissemination and use of APP Mhealth in Healthcare” shows how the use of Digital platforms is a widespread practice in our territory: on average 77% of users with access to the Internet, usually use this medium to search for news and information regarding their health. Nevertheless, no one seems to give up asking for the support of an expert in the field for health decisions, 75% of users say they ask for clarification and advice on what is read online from their general practitioner or doctor specialist, while the remaining 25% asks for clarification from their pharmacist. This seems to underline the role still considered fundamental and irreplaceable of the physician, consolidating the hypothesis that technology cannot, in any case, compete and replace the expert. Continuity in the relationship between doctor and patient, even beyond the medical examination, is one of the themes addressed by the Observatory. The most commonly used means for professionals, according to the statistics reported in the Observatory, are smartphone chats (such as WhatsApp), email and the instant messaging service (SMS).
One of the major problems that emerged from the project concerns Public Bodies, which are often not up to date or are unable to keep up with the technological changes at a particularly hectic pace that we are experiencing today. The main obstacles leading to such a delay in the digitalisation are the lack of personnel with transversal skills on the Digital front, the lack of preparation of the Dispensing Bodies but also the Public Bodies, which do not tolerate the additional workload related to external quality controls of the Digital service. Therefore they permanently give up proposing the digital solutions to users, thus preferring the so-called “old methods”. The most frequent objections to the digitization process concern the incompatibility between the online medium and the guarantee of privacy and security of patients’ data. The suggestion proposed to this problem is to apply now the security systems born several years ago for banks around the world. In fact, the banking world has already successfully undergone this process of digitization through the “home banking” or the “mobile banking”.
So, a world yet to be discovered and in evolution, that of Digital Health, which will certainly change the way we live and assist the ill person; a world which should be at the same time more present, more regulated but also better known and spread, so that prejudices and false beliefs can leave the place and time to what is really important: taking care of the person.
Filippo Alberto Abate
For those who would like to learn more about the topic, we report the manuscript (Observatory on the dissemination and use of APP Mhealth in Healthcare).