This article was originally published in the online news website, TheStandard.com.ph, last 29 February 2016 (http://thestandard.com.ph/news/ts-29th-anniversary-issue/200528/ict-and-…)
“ICT and healthcare: Continuing innovation”
by The Standard
Information and communications technology is definitely a driver in revolutionizing healthcare in many developing countries. In the Philippines, a country with one of the highest mobile phone usage rates in the world, mobile use has significantly increased in rural areas.
Information and communications technology in general has already made dissemination of information and advisories to the public and facilitated consultation on health issues even in an archipelago made up of thousands of islands.
Recent developments in mobile communications now allow patients to avoid long and expensive journeys to seek help by receiving remote consultation, diagnosis, and treatment from specialists in far off hospitals. On the developmental front, it also facilitates better collaboration and sharing of learning and training among health workers. Even more important, it has had a hand in ensuring that public health threats, such as dengue recently, are kept in control through monitoring and collaboration between the local government units, the private and public health sectors as well as the public.
In 2013, the Department of Helath drew up the Philippines eHealth Strategic Framework and Plan, with the objective of enabling widespread access to health care services, health information, and securely share and exchange patients’ information in support to a safer, quality health care, more equitable and responsive health system for all the Filipino people by transforming the way information is used to plan, manage, deliver and monitor health services by the year 2020.
According to plan, foundations should already have been put in place, and basic connections for the sharing of information already working by this time. In this phase the target is to continue the innovations to develop and implement defined national eHealth solutions.
In 2015, the Department of Health established the national eHealth Data Information System, allowing data aggregation from various data sources or different health facilities’ information system. It also deployed an innovation known as the RxBox, a device with built-in medical sensors capable of storing data in an electronic medical record, transmitting health information via the Internet upon the consent of the patient, and facilitating tele-consultations.
COLLABORATION AND INNOVATION
The deployment of the devices aims to help promote inclusive health or equitable access to quality healthcare by all Filipinos regardless of socio-economic status and improve access to healthcare services and real-time health information for better decision-making. As of last year, there were 115 RxBox devices are deployed in health centers all over the country. By the end of 2016, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), through its Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) in partnership with DOH and other institutions, hopes to deploy at least 100 more RxBox devices.
Another innovation expected to be fully implemented by the end of the 2016 is the Philippine Health Information Exchange or PHIE. Through the PHIE, data records from hospitals are harmonized in order to ensure the availability of accurate and timely health information to both health practitioners at point of service and decision makers for more effective and efficient provision of health services. This helps make consultation and treatment more efficient and less costly for patients by helping them avoid duplication of treatments and avoid redundant and unnecessary tests when being treated by different hospitals. At least 85 hospitals are already putting data into the PHIE registries.
The PCHRD and Ateneo de Manila University have also started rolling out eHATID LGUs or eHealth Tablet for Informed Decision Making of Local Government Units. These involve the distribution of tablets containing an android application that offers real-time access to health information among LGUs and medical doctors for better decision-making.
The application’s main feature is an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system where patients of Rural Health Units (RHU) record will be installed. It will also feature communication and graphs and reports, which can be filtered by date or disease.
Data from the e-Hatid device are synced to a central database via the government cloud facilities of the Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI) of the DOST.
For health workers deployed in remote and rural areas, the eHatid has a feature that allows them to input patient records offline, and then later sync the encoded information to a government cloud facility in case internet service is unavailable.
The way information is collected, processed, and accessed dictates how well health providers and workers can plan, manage, deliver and monitor health services more efficiently. As long as science, technology and the health sectors work together to bring these innovations, we can expect continued improvements in the provision of health services to all, especially the underserved sectors of society.