Angara to file bill creating PH eHealth system for telemedicine
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Sonny Angara is set to file a bill seeking to establish a Philippine eHealth system and services to cover telehealth and telemedicine.
In a statement on Wednesday, Angara said the development of telemedicine as a viable alternative to physical visits to the doctors should actively be pursued.
“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 (coronavirus disease 2019) being highly contagious, physical visits to physicians is discouraged, which makes the situation even more difficult for the public,” he 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,” he added.
Angara’s proposed bill would recognize 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.”
“During these times, the use of telemedicine could help bring the necessary health care to our people and more importantly, save lives,” the lawmaker said.
The measure would provide the policy, regulatory and legal framework for a national eHealth system, the senator noted.
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, he added.
Angara said the use of electronic prescriptions, or e-prescriptions, would be covered under the bill.
This to ensure that during periods when there is a disease outbreak or an imposition of an enhanced community quarantines (ECQ)–which would make securing physical prescriptions difficult–individuals would still be able to purchase vital drugs.
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, Angara said.
The DOH, the senator further noted, has also announced the availability of free telemedicine consultations to patients who need COVID-19 medical advice, as well as other primary care concerns.
The free telemedicine consultations were made available on Tuesday.
The Food and Drugs Administration has also issued guidelines on the use of e-prescriptions during the ECQ period, he added.
“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,” the senator said.
Angara then 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 ably provided with quality health care through telemedicine.
To date, Philippine health officials have confirmed 3,764 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the country.
Of this number, 177 patients have died while 84 have recovered from the disease.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier placed the entire Luzon under an enhanced community quarantine as the number of COVID-19 cases in the country continues to increase. The quarantine became effective on March 17 and was initially set to be lifted on April 13.
The quarantine period was however extended until April 30.
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