Far Away Feeling at Home - Building a Solidarity Network within Lombardy to Provide Quality Health Services for Ill People who Need Medical Treatment

Project location: Italy, Lombardia
Project start date: June 2012 - Project end date: March 2013
Project number: 2012-049
Beneficiary: Associazione PROMETEO Onlus


Each year about one million people turn to hospitals outside of their region of residence.
This phenomenon is commonly known as "health tourism" and is specifically related to structures located in Lombardy (recent statistics show that out of the top 20 Italian hospitals that supply services outside their own region, 6 are located in Milan).
More than 100,000 people each year travel to Milan to receive treatment or undergo surgery.
25% of these people belong to the so-called "disadvantaged groups" and are mostly elderly people. It should be noted that each person spends, on average, 10 days in Milan (including examinations and visits pre and post intervention) with a resulting effort of 250,000 accommodation (nights) per year.
This phenomenon is also expected to grow due to the different quality of healthcare experienced in different Italian regions and also due to the trend for each hospital in turn to a virtual geographic space related to the number of people suffering from some disease rather than to its district. Modern medicine increasingly trend will be to reduce the duration of hospital admissions resulting in an increase of temporary accommodation needs.
The ultimate goal is to build an accessible network within Lombardy to provide quality health services for all those people who are already facing emotionally difficult situations (due to of illness and/or need for health care) and for those who are unable to face a financial commitment of 80 € per night at the hotel (on average).
This has to do both with the physical need for assistance and the psychological impact.

Five associations (Prometeo, Lega Tumori Milano, AVO, CasAmica, Casa Marta) have combined their experience on the theme of hospitality to the sick and their families, both in terms of service and volunteers' availability.
Their common experience allows them to deal with the different aspects of hospitality: listening to people's needs, identifying resources to be used, taking care of patients and their families, structuring resources towards hospitality, activating services aimed at physical and psychological support. They share a model of support (common and already implemented) to vulnerable people in case of "health tourism".
The effective needs inspiring this project are:
• the switch from a demand vs. supply dynamics to a system based on management of the flows generated by health tourism;
• the necessary coordination among all parties;
• the optimization of communication and information about host's services.

The project has 5 specific goals:
1. Identification of a reference hosting's model;
2. Model validation based on supply and demand;
3. Construction of guidelines for Social Houses;
4. Networking of high quality structures;
5. Feasibility study to extend the model to the entire Lombardy district.

1. For the identification of a reference hosting's model, the associations involved in the project will constitute a board of experts who, through qualitative research, will identify the most significant issues of this phenomenon in terms of:
a. accommodations' availability
b. accommodations' information (by remote means)
c. aspects related to travelling needs
d. economic aspects
e. issues related to separation from family and friends
f. structural issues
2. In order to validate the model based on supply and demand, the project includes a pilot application of the same on the territory of competence (Milan) before extending it to Lombardy. A questionnaire will be created to verify the proposed system (both demand and supply) and will be administered to patients and Social Houses. Finally it will be analyzed by statisticians.
3. To outline the guidelines for Social Houses, according to the proposed model, fundamental and desirable criteria will be identified for a successful approach aimed to match together demand and the available supply in the territory. These criteria are divided by areas. For example: the structural aspects, equipment, organization, host model, reservations' model. An initial directory of Social Houses meeting the criteria of the model will be listed.
4. A website containing a list of Social Houses respecting the model's standard will be created to network the selected structures. The link to this website will be added in the hospitals' websites (as a result of agreements with the hospital directions) and also in communication materials of those associations that reside on the territory.
5. The feasibility study to extend the model in Lombardy is the last step of this project. Health facilities will be identified as a recognized centre of excellence in Lombardy and their flows of people analyzed. Organizations managing these Social Houses near a hospital will be identified and then methods on how to extend the model on the territory will be studied.
Until the accomplishment of the entire project, all five organizations will work together with clearly defined roles: in particular Prometeo will be in charge of the project's operational and technical direction.

This project received a grant from the NPF.
In 2011 the project received the Sodalitas Social Innovation Award (first edition), set up by Fondazione Sodalitas (an important foundation in Milan, creating partnership between non-profit and the economic world) with the aim of helping the volunteering's experience to bring innovative projects in the corporate world. The project "Far away feeling at home" competed with about 250 other projects proposed by organizations from all over Italy; it distinguished itself for its originality and its significant social impact. It was also underlined that the effective economic structure of the project will allow it to self-sustain once fully operational.
Prometeo has also received the Golden Ambrogino, the highest award in the city of Milan.

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