Press Release
December 10, 2010


The Congressional Commission on Science Technology and Engineering (COMSTE) has identified Telehealth, which would help deliver basic medical services to remote areas, as a top national priority for 2011.

COMSTE reports a target of deploying 200 new telehealth clinics within the next 2 years. The commission is also targeting the development of new Biomedical devices / Subsystems - ECG, Blood Tests, Urinalysis, Disease Screening in coordination with local electronics industry partners.

Department of Health Secretary Dr. Enrique Ona, who is a member of the COMSTE health panel, noted that the role of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) would play an important role in making the move towards achieving universal healthcare.

The National Telehealth Project, which was initiated by the University of the Philippines, Manila National Telehealth Center (UPM-NTC), is seen as an ideal partnership between healthcare and technology, which would enable doctors to remotely diagnose patients in rural and far-flung communities.

Remote consultations include the use of SMS and MMS services, video conferencing, and email referrals. The project has ten sites in four provinces, complete with workstations and training centers. In a 34 month period, there have 1,389 telehealth referrals from remote doctors.

A 2009 report of the United Nations Economic and Social Council's Commission on Science and Technology for Development acknowledges that ICT plays an integral role in implementing government services. Through the research of COMSTE's Health Sciences and ICT panels, Telehealth is seen as having strategic advantages for the Philippines.

Senator Edgardo J. Angara, Chair of COMSTE, said that, "telehealth has the potential to become a game changer for the country. That is why I have set PHP 100 Million for funding from the 2009 budget for this program."

Angara said that aside from improving basic health care services and delivery to remote areas, telemedicine will create the foundation for digital medical records. By collecting data from patients all over the country, transitioning to a digital medical record system will become easier.

The collection of digital records also creates a centralized information system that can be utilized by PhilHealth. By keeping track of its members, PhilHealth can make it easier for members to get the health care they need and at the same time sustain their membership, Angara noted.

PhilHealth is currently studying proposals for a project which would create an SMS payment collection scheme which would help address geographic issues for far flung areas.

The COMSTE health panel has also seen the use of Telehealth technology as becoming the basis for an innovative way for remote consultations and patient interfacing, which can provide the Philippines with a competitive edge in the medical tourism market.

COMSTE reports show that a large number of pregnant women go through term without receiving prenatal testing and an estimated 40% of the populace have never seen a doctor.

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