Thursday, September 8, 2011

PPPs & Telehealth

In 1998, UP Manila piloted the National Telehealth System, a project that imparted clinical information and education to distant areas using information communication technologies. Through computers and the Internet, the project provided supplementary expert care to far-flung provinces where health care specialists are scarce.

By 2009, Congress allotted Php100 million to expand the reach and scope of the National Telehealth System. Through the additional funding, the system facilitated remote consultation with experts in the Philippine General Hospital regarding trauma and poison cases, and in determining and responding to epidemics.

The project has ten sites in four provinces. Each site had a workstation and a training center. Remote consultations were done through SMS and MMS services, video conferencing, and email referrals. In a 34 month period, the National Telehealth System provided 1,389 telehealth referrals from remote doctors.

Given the success of the telehealth project in increasing the access to quality healthcare in the countryside, its areas of reach should be expanded. But given government's limited resources, it's a good idea to allow private sector in the project to provide the necessary infrastructure and financing.

The Secured Health Information Network and Exchange (SHINE), a program recently entered into by Smart Communications, Inc. and the Department of Health (DOH) is a possible model for private-public partnerships in telehealth.

The SHINE program will create an electronic database of patients’ medical histories and share it among rural health units and some government hospitals in Iloilo City. The database will enhance the efficiency of healthcare delivery by cutting down the time spent in repetitive documentation of patient data. The system will also be used to record consultations, fill up and send referral acknowledgement and feedback forms, search for health care specialists or facilities, set up appointments, and send short messaging system (SMS) notification and reminders to patients.

SHINE is a good start for PPPs in telehealth, and hopefully it will encourage more public-partnerships in telehealth.

For more information, visit comste.gov.ph

-- Ixara Maroto, 12th post

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