“We can get through this.”
By Nicoletta Luppi, senior vice president and managing director, Italy
April 1, 2020
Italy has been one of the first countries to be deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. And Italy happens to be my country – it’s where I was born and now live with my husband and our two kids. But as general manager in Italy, the challenges I now face here are not only personal but also professional.
In response to the global crisis, we are taking strides to bring Italy back on track. We know full well that our patients depend on us for medicines and vaccines, and perhaps now more than ever. That’s priority number one. We recognize, too, that we have a responsibility to our community as a whole, from everyday citizens to our treasured – and, increasingly, brave – health care professionals.
So now, as before, we’re aiming to be part of the solution. The steps we’ve taken to do good range from the small to the large and the symbolic to the tangible. For example, we recently illuminated our headquarters in the green, white and red colors of our Italian flag. This gesture is intended to send a message to our employees, to Italians – and indeed the world – that together we’re going to fight this virus.
More substantially, we have donated kits with software programs and diagnostic tools that will enable patients with chronic health issues, who are also grantees of the Italian National Health System, to be telemonitored.
That donation – which is already matched by other organizations – represents a larger public health imperative. As it turns out, the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the urgent demand for telemedicine – and, moreover, for telehealth to be deployed as an essential element in the health care system and built into its very infrastructure.
Through telemedicine, patients can be helped at home – or, as the case may be, sheltering in place during a quarantine – and beyond. In its most advanced form, telemedicine frees physicians, nurses and other health care professionals to “visit” patients at home, either for routine check-ins or urgent care. It’s almost as if home becomes the new hospital.
For all too long now, telemedicine has existed largely as a promise that remained undelivered and seldom implemented. Studies conducted over the last decade in particular have shown how telehealth can lower hospital admissions and readmissions, improve patient outcomes and sharply cut health care costs.
With the pandemic now wreaking havoc, we’re fast realizing that our time for turning that promise into reality could run out unless we act soon.
So our donation of telemedicine kits is designed for a dual purpose. It will help patients and physicians and it will reduce the outbreak, reinforcing social distancing. But it will also help to elevate the issue of telemedicine on our public health agenda. And if telemedicine finally becomes the norm, our society must better ensure that we’re better prepared for health care emergencies of this scale.
Only two months ago, the world thought of Italy and what came to mind was Italy at its best – its food, its monuments, its glorious operas, its beaches and its mountains and, above all, its enviable lifestyle of la dolce vita. But now we see a different Italy, with this modern-day scourge decimating whole towns, our valiant physicians and nurses exhausted from the struggle to stop patients from dying. Perhaps no image more vividly translates this current moment than that of Pope Francis live-streaming Holy Week liturgies to an empty St. Peter’s Square.
So yes, we are struggling. But all you have to do is look once more at our landmarks – at the Coliseum in Rome and the Duomo in Florence, erected in some cases more than a thousand or two years ago – to know that Italians pride themselves on longevity and innovation. And with the same spirit, I do hope to look once more at other countries’ landmarks – the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Big Ben Tower in London, the Brandeburg Gate in Berlin, Times Square in NY just to mention few of them –
All those sites proudly speak volumes about our national legacies. They say, 'Yes, we Italians, we Europeans, we Humans, can get through this. We were here yesterday, many yesterdays ago, and we'll be here tomorrow, too.'