What impact have the policies against Covid-19 had on all other patients?


“Forgotten patients” is the title of a data journalism survey dedicated to the weight of the pandemic on access to diagnosis and treatment. Here are the main data and where to learn more

Two out of three surgeries postponed, more than one out of three postponed, just one in ten cancer screening performed: these are the forgotten patients, those who, while due to the pandemic of Covid-19 the health resorts were filled to the limit of sustainable, they could not or did not want to – for fear of contagion – access health services during the initial phase of the pandemic and the first lockdown. And now, more than a year later, aninvestigation data driven own call Forgotten patients, signed by the journalist and collaborator of Wired Riccardo Saporiti and promoted by the interdisciplinary laboratory of International School of Advanced Studies (Sissa) of Trieste thanks to a donation from the writer Paolo Giordano, photograph the effects of the containment policies of the pandemic on health services and on all patients not affected by Covid-19.

Forgotten patients, some data

A relationship of the clinical research specialist Iqvia had already highlighted, in 2020, a significant decline dell’access all diagnosis and at cure in the main therapeutic areas compared to 2019: as regards respiratory and cardio-metabolic pathologies, the study found 13 percent fewer new diagnoses, a 10 percent drop in new treatments started, and 31 percent fewer specialist visits. Also cancer patients were no exception: overall, in 2020 they were made 30 thousand fewer cancer diagnoses compared to the previous year, equal to about 10%. Furthermore, there was a significant decrease in treatment initiations (-13%), surgical interventions (-18%) and hospitalizations (-16%). A study published in April in The Lancet Oncology denounced that the pandemic had “devastating effects on cancer patients, with a huge number of missed diagnoses e delayed treatments due to pressured health systems, in addition to reluctance of people to seek medical attention for fear of contagion. It is not just about the fear of the coronavirus: many health services in Italy have been postponed starting from March 16, 2020 following the publication of the Guidelines for the reshaping of the scheduled activity that can be deferred from the Covid-19 emergency course, document, signed by the Minister of Health Roberto Speranza, who postponed hospitalizations less urgent e suspended performance outpatient. “A decision“, Explains the author of the investigation,”which has affected the national territory in a homogeneous way, in a context in which the pandemic has hit the country in a way that is anything but homogeneous. They prove it the numbers we have collected related to doctors and nurses tested positive for the new coronavirus and on patients admitted to intensive care, considered the litmus test of the pandemic impact on the health service. Data, the latter two, that “Forgotten patients” is able to return hospital by hospital and I’m available to all su GitHub”.

Map of positive health care patients from patientidimenticati.it
Map of positive doctors and nurses, from the patientidimenticati.it site

The investigation

Saporiti was one of the two winners of a scholarship of the Interdisciplinary Laboratory of the Sissa of Trieste for the realization of an original and unpublished journalistic investigation based on the data of the Covid-19 pandemic in Italy. The scholarship was co-financed by Sissa with the contribution of Paolo Giordano, writer and teacher of the master in Science Communication Franco Prattico, with the proceeds of his book In the contagion (Einaudi, 2020). The survey data, duration one year ed extended throughout the national territory, derived from 122 healthcare companies and hospitals who have provided Saporiti with information relating to surgical interventions, a outpatient visits and examsie at oncological performance performed and postponed between March 1 and April 30, 2020 or, if data on postponements are not available, a comparison between the performance data for 2019 and 2020.

The information, presented within the investigation with texts, maps and infographics, they want to return a photograph of the impact of the pandemic on the present public health and on all other patients. What about the future? Some studies have already tried to make an estimate of what the long-term consequences will be: research published in July 2020 on The Lancet Oncology, for example, it calculated a increase in deaths from breast cancer 5 years after diagnosis, between 7.9 and 9.6%. “Only time will tell if these forecasts prove correct, with the hope of course that they will be overestimated”Concludes Saporiti. “I did what we could with the data we have available at the moment: tell how many patients were forgotten during the pandemic“. The investigation dedicated to the Forgotten Patients can be found on pazientidimenticati.it.


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