Doctor Filippo Anelli, presidente de la Federación Nacional de Médicos de Italia

The general practitioner, an agent of humanization

Intervention of Dr. Filippo Anelli, president of the National Federation of Doctors of Italy, in presenting the “Thank you, doctor!” campaign in Vatican City on November 16th.

The general practitioner is the most important tool for humanizing public health.

It is based on an ongoing relationship that is established between the physician and the citizen who chooses him or her. A relationship that is created on mutual trust and that determines a fundamental bond to support prevention programs and adherence to treatment pathways for diseases, especially chronic ones, including through reasoned or appropriate access to specialist medicine.

The activity of general practice is characterized by:

  • A free access by the patient to the family physician,
  • Physician’s knowledge of the social and health history of the person and his or her family,
  • Willingness and ability to solve the caregiver’s health problems
  • Specific propensity for health education
  • willingness on the part of the doctor to take charge of the person’s distress, becoming a point of reference for any social and health problems.

Public health cannot do without the family doctor, who is the interface between the system and the person’s right to health.

Healthcare that addresses illness as everyone’s problem, that takes charge of the person suffering and never leaves them alone, that instills hope and confidence in science to deal with suffering.

The ideal and future health care for the family physician must be: public, participatory, adequately funded, with a congruent number of professionals, organized to respond effectively to citizens’ health goals, and respecting patients’ decisions.

Health care that does not only look at performance but is capable of preventing disease; that considers the environment in which one lives a key element in understanding the individual’s illnesses; that bases access to care on the holistic approach and general medicine; and that puts citizens in a position to freely decide on their own lives.

It will have to be a health care that is different from the corporatist one, where each individual does not feel like a number, a stranger, a foreigner, but a welcomed person who can entrust his or her health to professionals, with confidence in full respect for the dignity owed to every Person.

A health care oriented and based on respect for the relationship of trust between doctor and patient, which is a guarantor of the citizen’s right to choose his or her doctor.

In Italy, the figure of the general practitioner is a key garrison of citizen care and benefits from a high level of trust and good social reputation.

Esteem toward one’s family doctor is confirmed by various demographic companies, which note that this category reaches 81 percent approval in terms of trust, establishing itself as the most valued institution in the country.

As a result, 75 percent of Italians believe that the right to choose their own family doctor is inalienable, nor are they willing — in 92 percent of cases — to delegate to cold algorithms, such as those of artificial intelligence, the protection of their health by having a computer take care of them.

Confidence well placed in physicians (83 percent) who, despite the organizational and economic difficulties of the NHS, consider the motivations that led them to choose this profession unchanged.

According to a study published in the British Medical Journal Open, continuity of care in attending one’s physician is associated with reduced mortality. Despite all the advances in technology, communication and the interpersonal relationship between physician and individual remains fundamental to health protection.

Even at a time when information sources are multiplying out of all proportion, citizens continue to assign the function of the physician as the main source of information on health issues: the family doctor is the number one source.

The National Health Service was created, thanks to Tina Anselmi, to guarantee “Comprehensiveness of benefits, Universality of recipients, Equality of treatment, Respect for the dignity and freedom of the Person.”

For doctors, the National Health Service optimally interprets this profession, as it considers all people equal before health, allows the same services to be provided to every individual thanks to the solidarity of all Italians.

A country that invests in health improves the economy, results in increased employment, produces scientific progress and social cohesion.

That on health care, according to the Censis- Fnomceo report, is a profitable investment: every euro put in generates a value of production close to double.

This is because the demand for goods and services triggered by public health spending radiates into the rest of the economy, expanding the value of business output, with significant benefits on employment, value added and national GDP.

Thus, the progress of our society is strongly influenced precisely by the level of protection of people’s health that is decisively guaranteed by the skills possessed by medical professionals and their availability.

General medicine embodies these principles well in that it guarantees free of charge and no limitations on access to care, a holistic view in the doctor-patient approach, considers prevention and the dignity of the Person with his or her family relationships to be invaluable to health, and represents the best safeguard–based on the relationship of trust–to guarantee every Person the right to self-determination.

This relationship between family physician and patient is based on the primary interest of the Person and his or her need for health and is established through the citizen’s free choice of physician. A relationship that reflects the ethical principles set forth in the Code of Medical Deontology respects mutual autonomy and is based on communication as a time of care.