A couple of Phoenicians living temporarily in Roma

Is there a dottore in the house?

I had occasion today to visit an Italian dottore or medico (physician). It’s the second time since we’ve been living in Rome that I’ve needed some minor medical attention. I’m a social worker and have worked in healthcare settings during the past 15 or so years of my career. Given my personal experiences as a patient and as an advocate for ill loved ones, and my professional experiences, I’m a bit familiar with the system in the States.

I’ve just got to say that I’m fascinated. The 2 times I’ve been to the doctor in Italy, I’ve not filled out one form. No health history. No demographic information required, except for when the receptionist completes the receipt for me to pay the bill. No notes taken by the doctor and presumably no chart. Maybe there’s something happening behind the scenes that I’m not aware of, but if there is, there’s no sign of it from where I sit as the patient.

I’m hopeful that this lack of apparent paperwork is not the norm for the Italian healthcare system. Knowing the bureaucracy that exists in so many areas of Italian life, I doubt that it is.

I’m establishing care with a local doctor. It will be interesting to see what happens in my follow up visit. I’ll keep you posted.


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4 thoughts on “Is there a dottore in the house?

  1. Jeanne on said:

    hmm. that is really curious for sure. yes, let us know how the next visit goes. maybe they record everything instead of writing it down? strange for sure…. j.

  2. Gerrie,

    You took the words out of my mouth! I am having a similar experience, although in my case the doctor even billed me himself, via email! I suspect the lack of medical buraeucracy to date — for me — is either a) because I was referred in by te Embassy, or B) because we have private insurance. There is an empahsis here, IMO, on personal responsibiity as well. There were also some amusing moments in “bedside manner.” I’ll be blogging about my experiences soon, as I need a minor “invetrvento.”

    • I think you’re right Laurel that because we are seen as “foreigners” who are not part of the national healthcare system AND we pay as we go (even if we can submit the claim to our insurance provider), we are treated differently.

  3. One thing that I absolutely LOVE about the Italian health system is each person gets their own tests results directly from the lab and keeps his or her own records. This not only means that there aren’t pointless duplicates, but also that you can read the results yourself, can puzzle over x-rays and lab technician notes, and you then contact your doctor – or second opinion doctor, specialist or whomever you please – if something doesn’t look right. You bring your tests with you on any doctor visit – and take them home.

    It also means that doctors don’t have to notify the patients about test results, archive, store, share, or retrieve tests, although most keep a few notes on their regular patients.

    Hospital stays are slightly different. You are still expected to bring your relevant records with you, and the doctors will look at them, but they do write down the health history and, when they order tests for in-patients, the tests stay in the hospital archives. You can however order copies for a small fee.

    Can people be trusted with their test records? Are they careful with them? You bet! Imagine how useful it is to have a whole lifetime of health records starting from birth!

    My compliments on the blog.

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