Two very similar episodes happened these last few days during my (enforced) stay in homeland Italy. I just had ankle and foot surgery due to a bad rugby injury. Since this operation forces me to bed for a while, I decided have surgery and recover in the village of Salsomaggiore, nearby Parma, where I grew up and where my family still lives. Apart from the comfort of being surrounded and helped by family, I have been experiencing the long forgotten discomfort of dealing with local administration, especially medical administration.
After being dismissed from the hospital, I needed to go to my GP to get a sick leave certificate. In Italy, the surgeon that operates you (the person who knows best your condition and needs after surgery) is not legally entitled to release sick leave certificates. Patients need to go to a GP who will just read the surgeon’s paper and translate it into a certificate (yes, that’s absurd). Anyway, I went to my GP and handed him the papers from the hospital. To my surprise he starts handwriting the certificate and the prescriptions. Since, I will need to send these documents to Belgium, where they will be translated and presented to my insurance, I kindly ask the doctor to type them on his computer. His response was “That can’t be done.” “What do you mean” – I replied. “It can’t be done.” he confirmed. I asked for an explanation since it sounds to me very unusual that in 2014 a medical document cannot be typed. I was not happy with his response and after talking it over with him, it turns out he didn’t know how to use Microsoft Word or any other typing software whatsoever. According to him, in his career, this was never necessary. Although I was astonished, I kept it cool and we found a solution asking a secretary of a medical studio nearby to type the documents that he then signed and stamped. I know the Italian administrative systemis obsolete but, this was a first for me.
The second episode was at the follow up visit for medication at the surgeon’s studio. Since I had to send my original dismissal certificates to my employer in Belgium, I kept scanned copies on my phone and also paper copies. The doctor asks for the documents and I show him on my phone. He says “I need to have the originals.” “I can send you the copy to you in one second via e-mail so you can see them on your laptop. I’m afraid I had to send the originals to my employer.” His reply was “I can’t trust reading a document off a screen. I need the originals. Have them sent back.” Thanks to months of yoga, I learnt how to breathe out any nervous reaction even such idiotic behaviour may trigger. I replied “What exactly do you need doc?” “I need to see what I wrote when I dismissed you from the hospital.” “It’s right here, doc” I replied “It’s the very same document you wrote.” He looks at my phone reluctanly and follows through with the prescription that he wrote originally on paper. He was simply reluctant to read it on a screen, believing that having it on a smartphone or tablet would not make it official. All his appointments, therapies and presciption are handwritten and, supposedly , typed again by his secretary. It is frankly ridiculous.
Medical professions need to constantly get up to date not only within their very fields of work but also with their management systems. The digital gap between young Italians and professionals in the public sector and medical sector is huge and represents the attitude of a never-changing societal establishment who sees change as the endangerment of their status.