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Innovation in medicine.Challenges for Italy’s National Health System and the role of public-private partnerships.

  • Rome
  • 22 June 2023

        A shift in the healthcare paradigm is leading to the increased personalization of treatments, with innovations that ensure improvements in the care, monitoring and prevention of pathologies, and that offer the possibility of not only more effective but more efficient care. The Covid-19 experience showed the importance of health to the country’s social and economic well-being. The post-pandemic reaction, guided by the PNRR, has acknowledged such importance by earmarking over 15 billion euros in resources for the Missione Salute (mission health) program.

        Italy is active in this field both in the redesign of local area assistance and in technological innovation. Creating facilities such as community houses and neighborhood hospitals means bringing medicine to the people while at the same time alleviating emergency room overload. Helping to strengthen this strategy are technologies such as telemedicine, which will see the launch of a national platform within 2023. Moreover, advances in the use of the Electronic Health Record will make mass quantities of available not only for providing better patient assistance but also for the purposes of research, placing Italy in the company of other pioneering nations. 

        Nevertheless, innovation in the field of medicine consists not only of technologies and platforms. Equally fundamental are innovative drugs and therapies that are capable of radically transforming the approach to many illnesses. Cost/benefit analyses of the use of these instruments are therefore essential. Indeed, a perspective that limits itself to the high initial cost of innovative drugs as compared with traditional ones fails to recognize their advantages for patients and, over the long run, for the entire healthcare system. It thus becomes important to make the leap to a new paradigm that considers resources for innovation an investment rather than a current expense.

        Moreover, the system’s economic sustainability also remains an essential factor in the accessibility of medical innovation, which is even more important for a national health service such as Italy’s that continues to view universality and equal access as bedrock values. Yet, the system cannot sustain itself on public funds alone; in order to reap the best from innovation, improving the availability and distribution of treatment, the public sector must partner with the private to generate a dialogue that involves not only healthcare facilities but also correlated businesses, the scientific community and the tertiary sector.

        Adaptation of health system infrastructure and governance remain two of the principal challenges to reaping the benefits of the ongoing global healthcare revolution. Given the current political consensus on the need for sector reform and the ample availability of PNRR resources, Italy has a golden opportunity that it cannot afford to miss. This especially if it intends to bring farsighted vision to its health and welfare system, which must also factor in the undeniable impact of future demographic changes and the ageing of the population.

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