This article reviews how Italian National Health Service (NHS) pediatricians have tried to fulfill the obligations of modern primary care providers in a managed care environment, with special reference to the experience of the Veneto region in Italy and compares this situation with the present changes of the health system in the United States.
Italian NHS primary care pediatricians work independently in their offices, providing acute and chronic patients to all children 0 to 14 years old: NHS primary care physicians, including 7000 pediatricians, contract directly with the government for the care of patients through a capitated reimbursement system.
Twenty-nine independent associations of community pediatricians have been formed with the primary goal to pursue research and education in primary care pediatrics, in addition to traditional care. Several multicenter collaborative research studies at the national level have been organized and four university residency programs are training their residents in community-based pediatricians’ offices also, giving priority to activities specific to ambulatory practice and follow the suggestion of an Italian work group on ambulatory pediatric training.
The NHS has allowed the Italian pediatrician to focus on patient care and education rather than business. Computerization has been applied to the practice of medicine through the development of electronic medical records, particularly in the Veneto region. This technology allows combining effective clinical care with outcome researches and facilitates continuing medical education and residents’ training programs.
Italian primary care NHS pediatricians have tried to identify and address patient’s needs as well as the needs of a primary care provider in a managed care system. Recent and possible future modifications in the health system in the United States and in Italy need to be examined to learn from similarities and differences. primary care, network research, managed care, national health care, education.