Angara sees greater need for telemedicine now with the COVID-19 experience

Posted on: Wed, 04/08/2020 - 14:13 By: admin
National telehealth project eyed to improve healthcare

Now more than ever, the development of telemedicine as a viable alternative to physical visits to the doctors should actively be pursued, Senator Sonny Angara said today.

In this time of COVID-19 when the transmission of the coronavirus is fast and potentially dangerous for certain individuals, Angara said technology and innovation is key to bridging the gap between patients and health care professionals.

“We have seen in the past weeks that consults with medical professionals have become very, very difficult. Clinics and hospitals are struggling to cope with the surge in patients seeking medical attention. With COVID-19 being highly contagious, physical visits to physicians is discouraged, which makes the situation even more difficult for the public,” Angara said.

“Patients with COVID-19 could easily spread the virus to the health professionals and the latter could then infect other patients. It’s a vicious cycle which could prove to be fatal not only for the patients, but the health professionals as well. During these times, the use of telemedicine could help bring the necessary health care to our people and more importantly, save lives,” Angara added.

Apart from putting up the infrastructure required for remote consultations, Angara said artificial intelligence could also play a significant role in facilitating the delivery of health services to the people.

Telemedicine is not a new concept. Back in 2010, the Congressional Commission on Science Technology and Engineering (COMSTE), of which Angara was a member, already identified “telehealth” as a national priority.

At the time, Angara’s father, the late former Senate President Edgardo Angara, as chairman of the COMSTE noted how telehealth could be “a game changer in the country.”

Apart from giving people who reside in remote areas access to basic health care services, the elder Angara said that telemedicine will also create the foundation for digital medical records.

At present, the University of the Philippines, Manila-National Telehealth Center has been equipping doctors and health workers with eHealth and telemedicine tools for the delivery of quality health care to patients.

It has also been assisting the Department of Health (DOH) in its Doctors to the Barrios program to manage patients in need of specialty care.

The DOH has also announced that free telemedicine consultations to patients who need COVID-19 medical advice, as well as other primary care concerns will be available starting Tuesday, April 7, 2020.

Angara is set to file the DOH-endorsed bill establishing a Philippine eHealth system and services that covers telehealth and telemedicine.

The proposed bill recognizes eHealth as “equal with other healthcare delivery methods” and seeks to provide the necessary services to all Filipinos, especially in “medically unserved and underserved geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas.”

It will provide the policy, regulatory and legal framework for a national eHealth system.

Under the bill, a Health Sector Enterprise Architecture, which shall focus on automation and interoperability of various eHealth services and applications, would be developed and implemented.

The use of Electronic prescriptions (e-prescriptions) would be covered under this provision so that during periods when there is a disease outbreak or enhanced community quarantines (ECQ), when securing physical prescriptions would be difficult, individuals would still be able to purchase vital drugs.

Last March 17, the Food and Drugs Administration issued guidelines on the use of e-prescriptions during the ECQ period.

“Telemedicine should be an option for our countrymen especially in the age of deadly viruses when people should avoid hospitals but would still be diagnosed by doctors remotely,” Angara said.

Angara urged the Department of Information and Communications Technology to work on providing all areas of the country with internet connectivity so that even residents of remote areas will be provided with quality health care through telemedicine.