The topic if this issue of Clinical Social Work and health intervention is „Perception of Health Sciences by Consumers“. Indeed, there are at least two papers which already in the title strictly focus on this theme and others that are indirectly related to the same topic. In the last years the perception of the quality of the service has shifted from the healthcare providers to the healthcare consumers. For this reason the consumers’ satisfaction is being increasingly used worldwide for the assessment of quality of services provided by healthcare institutions and not only by them. It is also noteworthy that while in the past it was always reported to „patient“, nowadays it is preferred the term of „consumer“. This change is not only semantic but it involves a totally different perception of the services provided by healthcare institutions equating them to other institutions with different aims. Healthcare is now recognized by the civil society as an „industry“ which provides specific services in the field of „health“ having the quality care as the evaluation parameters of them. It is also important to mention that according to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) „Quality of care is the degree to which health services for individuals and populations increase the likelihood of desired health outcomes and are consistent with current professional knowledge.“ Thus, it is not surprising that among the most relevant parameter of evaluation of the health institutions there is patient satisfaction which has become a regular outcome in order to monitor the efficiency of medical staff and hospitals. Patient-Reported Outcomes (PROs) and Patient-Reported Outcome Measures (PROMs) are good example of consumers’ evaluation of healthcare system since they focus on placing patients at the center of health care research and of clinical care. Consumer perception of health has drastically changed since the eighties. In the past, the idea of „feeling well“ was the ultimate goal of any medical act and this mantra was widely perceived and accepted by the medical staff as well as by the patients. Today, at variance, the consumers feel that health should provide a more complex and wide range of services such as adequate preventative care, support to healthy lifestyle choices for long-term health and adequate access to health care. In any case, it is the consumer perception on the quality of services which drives most of the success or failure of an individual institution either in the healthcare field or in other fields. Since health and wellness are essential quality of life factors, many consumers often accept to pay a high price for receiving services that they consider essential to their health status even in countries where there is a national health service. The logical consequence of these high expectations and of the high costs sustained by consumers is the dramatic increases in the malpractice claims against physicians and hospitals recorded in the last decades. In fact, sometimes the patient’s request go far beyond what the public or private health system can offer. A new relevant element is present in the current scenario and is the increasing number of consumers seeking health information via the Internet. Indeed, more than 70 000 websites disseminate health information and an average of 50 million people seek health information online. This high number of Internet users for health problems invariably influence (and it will do it even more in the future) the degree of consideration for health systems. In conclusion, the perception of healthcare sciences by consumers is currently one of the most important elements to define the strategies and needs of the public in this field and for this reason is extremely interesting this issue of Clinical Social Work and health intervention.
prof. Dr. Roberto Cauda, Ph.D
Institute of Infectious Diseases Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Rome, Italia