Even if the Philippines is considered as the outsourcing capital of the world, the country lags behind other Asian countries when it comes to adopting existing IT assets for health. An expert from the Philippine Institute for Development Studies pointed out this fact in a press release from the policy think tank following the 11th Development Policy Research Month in September last year.
The press release also pointed out that policymakers should use IT to push innovation in the health sector in order for more Filipinos to access and afford health care. The state of health care in the Philippines can be so dire that in Butuan City, there is just one primary care doctor for every 100,000 people.
The Philippines can take cues from other Asian countries that are taking advantage of IT to promote public health care. In India, for example, there are already startups that let patients get a consultation from their doctors through over the Internet. Indian startup EHealthAccess connects patents to their doctors through a subscription service. Consultations are made over the web or the phone. Medstar is an online pharmacy startup that delivers medicines to customers.
Information Technology for Health in the Philippines
It’s not all gloom in the Philippines when it comes to tapping IT for healthcare. Globe Telecom, one of the country’s top broadband providers, has partnered with local software development company LiFEDATA Systems to launch a healthcare-centric suite of IT-powered services called Globe HealthCloud. HealthCloud has three applications and one of these, the HealthCloud MD, is an electronic medical record system that stores a patient’s medical files and the HealthCloud HMO which is a paperless clinic management system.
PIDS’s press release pointed out several projects by the Department of Health (DOH) that takes advantage of IT to promote health care. These include the DOH’s Maternal and Neonatal Death Reporting System, the Unified Non-Communicable Disease Registry System, and the Online National Electronic Injury Surveillance System. Dr. Irma Asuncion, Director of the National Center for Disease Prevention and Control Director, said that telemedicine is being used in the country and that the DOH wants to expand it this year (2014). There were already 389 rural health units that were using telemedicine and Asuncion said they want to let the numbers grow to 450 rural health units for 2014.
State of Health Care in the Philippines
Rappler’s Buena Bernal cited the many challenges faced by the Philippines’ public health care system. One of these is inadequate healthcare facilities. Only 17,000 barangays of the 42,000 barangays in the country have health centers, the article noted. The other problem is the lack of health personnel. The government is trying to address this problem through the DOH’s RNHeals program (Registered Nurses for Health Enhancement and Local Service program). The program deployed nurses to underserved areas in the country which allows the nurses to gain job experience. The program provided nurses with a monthly allowance of P8,000 and local governments where the nurses are deployed are encouraged to provide additional allowances. Critics of the program called the program “exploitative” because nurses under the program are only treated as trainees even if these nurses already have had their Related Learning Experience.
With these challenges faced by the Philippines’ health care sector, information technology can be a tool that can be used to help alleviate the problems faced by the health care sector. Telemedicine, powered by the burgeoning mobile and broadband connectivity of Filipinos definitely merits the support of the government.
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