The PNRR for digital and territorial healthcare

Marta Cristofanini
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Image of a doctor for PNRR and Health topic.

That the PNRR was an opportunity beyond a mere remedy to the pandemic was clear from the outset. And now that the first funds earmarked for Mission 6 Health (about €8 billion) have been disbursed by the Government among the Italian regions, the opportunity becomes more solid and concrete.

In fact, the objective of the PNRR on healthcare remains very clear. It is to create, strengthen and accelerate those processes that can digitize and modernize territorial healthcare.
This implies action in several macro-areas, including:

  1. places of care: homes and community hospitals;
  2. technological and digital hospital modernization (primarily telemedicine systems);
  3. enhancing safety and sustainability.

What do these interventions have in common? And what are the benefits they will bring?

The key words of the PNRR for health reform

Proximity, innovation, prevention: these are the watchwords guiding the health reform that is beginning to take its first steps.

  • Proximity, since the aim is to consolidate the care network at a territorial level, creating reference health centers close to and accessible to all people.
  • Innovation is rooted in the fertile soil of digitalization, where the modernization of existing medical tools is accompanied by the introduction of new digital technologies that can both enhance and simplify the work of healthcare professionals (just think of the resources of telemedicine and e-health in terms of remote effectiveness).
  • Prevention; in this case is synonymous with lightening the hospital load. It is made possible by the more agile and organized management of chronic patients and/or those in need of short and intermediate care.

These are the fundamental concepts that inspire the PNRR guidelines for managing the European funds allocated to health and post-pandemic recovery, which thus take on the appearance of a strongly encouraged health reform.

With over €20 billion made available through the PNRR, React EU and Complementary Plan, the road to revitalizing and improving health structures is long and challenging.

How will these first steps be managed?

Image of an hospital (for PNRR and health)

The centers of the new healthcare

Most of these initial investments will be directed towards the establishment of community houses (2 billion) and community hospitals (1 billion).

Community houses

Community homes have an almost continuous availability of heterogeneous medical staff. In addition to doctors and nurses, there are psychologists, speech therapists, physiotherapists and other health specialists.
In these facilities, in addition to the primary services of visits and bookings, access is guaranteed to primary diagnostic tools (e.g. cardiographs, electrocardiographs). These tools are essential for chronic patients who need to constantly monitor their condition.

The community homes are therefore configured as territorial reference, collection and sorting centers, which will obviously have to cooperate in a network with the other care structures distributed throughout the territory.

Community hospitals

Community hospitals, whose main services are short-term admissions and the care of patients who do not require intensive or hyper-specialized care, are expected to act in the same way, again with a view to ensuring territorial proximity, simplified hospital access and consequent redistribution of hospitalization.

However, in order for the benefits to be effective and efficient, digitalization must accompany the work carried out within these structures, facilitating communication between operators, and between operators and patients’ families. Monitoring, tracking wellness trends, preventive diagnostic activities that can be easily consulted and shared: this is what digital medicine and telemedicine are all about.

And it is precisely these activities that a device like Kibi seeks to make available and functional, offering concrete help to caregivers in the management of frail patients.

The PNRR for home care and telemedicine

204.5 million have been made available to strengthen the home as the first place of care; this means intensifying home care services, also with the help of all the digital tools capable of facilitating the work of caregivers (and which would be part of the technological and digital modernization operations for which about 2.6 billion have been allocated anyway).

How? By helping them to keep abreast of the well-being of their carers, even from a distance, and by tailoring interventions to their real needs. This is fully in line with the integrated telemedicine and digital health services, which are taken into account by the National Reform Programme in implementing the new health renaissance.

Digital and territorial health: a community commitment

Proximity and innovation are therefore the guiding principles of Health Mission 6 for smarter, decentralized, widespread and accessible healthcare management. Not only would the workload be better distributed, but more attention would be paid to diagnosing and treating patients. Preventive and follow-up actions would be facilitated, as well as the management of chronic diseases and short hospital stays.

All that remains, therefore, is to continue to find out how one’s own region will use the resources received (different for each region), in line with the new requirements expressed by the PNRR on renewed, digital and territorial healthcare.

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