“Innovation Delivers Healthcare Right in Patients Homes”

Interview with Paolo Rotelli, President, Gruppo Ospedaliero San Donato (GSD)

By Deepa Narwani, Editor

With ‘Innovation in Healthcare’ taking centre stage at Arab Health 2019, Paolo Rotelli, President of Italy’s Gruppo Ospedaliero San Donato (GSD), one of Italy’s largest private hospital groups, believes that innovation is completely changing the way healthcare is delivered.

In an interview with Daily Dose, he says: “Innovation makes it more and more possible to deliver care immediately. It is transforming the way you contact and converse with doctors. One of the biggest problems patients face when they have an ailment is that they don’t know where or whom to go to? They have to move from their location in order to get immediate attention.

“This is where telemedicine comes in. It doesn’t require the patient to move and will surely revolutionise the healthcare landscape. It is a known fact that the more you wait, the worse the problem can become. Treating the patient early results in reduced costs as well as in delivering effective care. Innovation delivers healthcare in the homes of the patient, and right in their hands.”

Paolo Rotelli, President, GSD

The second change, he highlights, that innovation in healthcare will bring about is that it will reduce errors through digitisation. Having digital records and technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) will enable doctors in having a clear vision and making informed choices.

At the show, GSD is hosting hands-on-training sessions for cardiologists and is bringing renowned physicians to demonstrate Italian know-how to doctors in the region. GSD also hosted the first-ever Global Health Pioneer Awards, in association with UAE Genetics Disease Association and Arab Health, on the eve of the exhibition.

Rotelli says: “Arab Health is interesting for us and for everyone attending due to two factors. The first is that visitors get to discover the level of technology available in different countries and to help us understand where we should aim in 2019/2020. It helps us comprehend where healthcare is going and gives us an insight into where the biggest companies in the industry, be it pharma or hospitals, are headed in the near future. We don’t just want to witness change; we want to be a part of it. The event is also a great platform for entering into Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) with leading institutions in the region.”

Last year, GSD started teaching and training programmes in the UAE, through GSD Healthcare, its UAE arm. These programmes, held in association with the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), bring some of the most renowned surgeons to pass on their expertise in the region. Its training centre in Dubai, targets medical and healthcare professionals from the GCC and Middle Eastern region to provide high quality, accredited courses in a multitude of medical, surgical and healthcare management topics.

He says: “We will continue with this approach of our experts visiting and training doctors in the region, as we believe the best investment is investing in people. We also hope to work with local institutions beyond training and collaborate in building efficient hospital management systems as well as engage in cultural exchanges. However, I would like to reiterate that our goal is to create know-how between the region and Italy.”

Defining the Perfect Healthcare Delivery System

According to Rotelli, the keywords that define a comprehensive healthcare delivery system are integration and transparency of information.

“Most countries are strong in primary care, general practitioners (GP) etc., but not one institution can solve a problem 360-degrees,” he explains. “The perfect healthcare system, according to me, is based on digital medical records that can be accessed by any doctor, anywhere. By just clicking a button, a physician can have all the required details and avoid mistakes. Then there should also be a system that helps GPs, hospitals as well as outpatient clinics to share everything about the patient and exchange opinions with each other.”

Furthermore, he believes that the best system is when the government pays for healthcare but it is managed privately, so that it creates competition not in terms of price, but only in terms of quality. “For example, in Italy’s healthcare system, the competition is on quality. The patient will go to the best doctor but at the same time, it will be at a minimal cost. This is why public-private partnership is key in building an efficient industry,” he adds.

Rotelli also stresses the importance of medical research. Even though healthcare has advanced tremendously over the years, he feels that we are still very far away from knowing about the human body or how genetics work.

He emphasises: “For example, we don’t know what causes headaches? We know why it’s caused but not what causes it. So, even though the advancements seem impressive, we don’t know a lot.

“In European countries, investment in medical research is going down. But without believing in medical research you stop to progress and start to regress. For example, even though these concepts are being discussed in the industry, it will still take the next 10 to 20 years for personalised medicine to be the next big trend, as not much is yet known about it. Focusing on and investing in medical research is definitely a central topic for us.”

On a parting note, he shares a profound piece of advice he received from his father: “Companies and hospitals are not made of something complicated, they are made of human beings. They exist because people are working in it. The buildings and technology are not as important as the people inside it. What is important is the know-how.

“We have doctors who go to countries in Africa that don’t have fancy buildings or equipment but the output they deliver is the same they would in our state-of-the-art facilities in Italy. Of course, we cannot disregard the importance of technology and buildings, but if you want to cure, you need to invest in the know-how of the people. To be a good healthcare manager, you need to focus on training people.”