Due to the demographic evolution, Europe is facing increasing challenges linked to its ageing population. In this context, the incidence of chronic diseases is expected to increase up to double by 2050. Current acute care structure needs to be adapted to apply chronic care models in order to offer quality and continuous care to chronic patients while at the same time managing the necessary resources to do so.
Integrated care is a new way of providing care closer to patients’ home. This new approach better responds to current challenges faced by health services, focusing on the coordination of all stakeholders involved in patient’s care to achieve the Triple Aim (better health results, reduced healthcare expenditure per capita and improved care experience). This approach has been adopted in different European regions and is paving the way for providing care to patients affected by chronic conditions. However, differences exist all around Europe due to the features of national health systems.
Chronic pain is often defined as any pain lasting more than 12 weeks. Whereas acute pain is a normal sensation that alerts us to possible injury, chronic pain is very different. It persists often for months or even longer and it may arise from an initial injury, such as a back sprain, or there may be an ongoing cause, such as illness. Chronic pain is a frequent condition, affecting an estimated 20% of people worldwide and accounting for 15% to 20% of physician visits. It can originate in the body, the brain or the spinal cord and is usually difficult to treat as it may require physiological and/or psychological treatment to support patient in daily cope with the disease.
Chronic pain can highly affect patients’ family life, work and personal activities. The experience of pain acts as a vicious circle, as it makes patients avoid activities and people that could be a cause of the pain itself, and therefore progressively erodes their psychological capabilities and physical condition, leading to more pain.
The pain experience makes the patient consulting several health professionals. This, together with the difficulty of professionals to find a solution could be a source of anxiety and depression for the patient. When a patient case is complex and no adequate solution is found, the patient may be directed to a unit where the problem is treated with a multi-disciplinary approach.
The incidence of chronic pain in Europe, and its insufficient treatment confers a substantial burden on individuals, employers, healthcare systems and society in general. Indeed, the personal and socioeconomic impact of chronic pain is as great as, of other established healthcare priorities. For this reason, chronic pain management became a priority for policy makers both at the European and national level. Several initiatives started to respond to this challenge, one of these is RELIEF project, falling under Horizon 2020 funding programme.
The project searches for new technologies to assist chronic patients to self-manage their pain. By using ICT, chronic patients can live independently at home even if they suffer from physical disabilities. RELIEF is aimed at improving health outcomes for individuals experiencing symptoms and chronic pain conditions, by translating evidence-based therapy validated by the medical services to home settings as well as advancing available and affordable technologies.
RELIEF adopts a holistic approach involving all stakeholders taking part at the patient care path. As ICT4Life, RELIEF objective is to develop a platform in a co-creation process involving end-users to support self-management of chronic diseases and better coordination of care among health professionals.
Artica Telemedicina joined the RELIEF project and will contribute to the development of the platform abovementioned, thanks to the expertise gained during ICT4Life project. The projects are both contributing to the same challenge, while relying on a similar research methodology.
Relief PCP project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 689476.
 The IHI Triple Aim framework was developed by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in Cambridge, Massachusetts (www.ihi.org).
 Treede, Rolf-Detlef et al. “A Classification of Chronic Pain for ICD-11.” Pain 156.6 (2015): 1003–1007. PMC. Web. 24 Apr. 2018.
Alejandro Sánchez-Rico de Heras
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