INTRODUCTION: Increasing numbers of persons are living with multiple chronic diseases and unmet medical needs in Bulgaria. The Bulgarian 'Diabetic care' non-profit (DCNPO) programme aims to provide comprehensive integrated care focusing on people with diabetes and their co-morbidities.
METHODS: The DCNPO programme was selected as one of eight 'high potential' programmes in the Innovating Care for People with Multiple Chronic Conditions (ICARE4EU) project, covering 31 European countries. Data was first gathered with a questionnaire after which semi-structured interviews with project staff and participants were conducted during a site visit.
RESULTS: The programme trains diabetic patients to act as carers, case managers, self-management trainers and health system navigators for diabetic patients and their family. The programme improved care coordination and patient-centered care by offering free care delivered by a multidisciplinary team. It facilitates the collaboration between patients, volunteers, health providers and the community. Internal evaluations demonstrate reduced hospital admissions and avoidable amputations, with consequent cost savings for the health care system.
CONCLUSION: Integrated care provided by volunteering patients can empower people suffering from diabetes and their co-morbidities and address health and social inequalities in resource-poor settings. It can also contribute to an increased trust and improved satisfaction among vulnerable patients with complex care needs.