Tagaytay City, Philippines- National Telehealth Center (NTHC) of the University of the Philippines Manila is preparing 70 new DOH Doctors to the Barrios (DTTBs) in using telemedicine applications in an effort to support their practice in doctorless communities in the countryside.
The 29th batch of DTTBs under the Doctors to the Barrios Program of the Department of Health (DOH) began their training last October 17 at the Development Academy of the Philippines Campus. They are officially enrolled in NTHC’s Certificate Course in eHealth and Telemedicine which is a part of the 30-million National Telehealth Service Program (NTSP) recently forged by the NTHC with the DOH. NTSP aims to help DTTBs handle patients in their assigned communities; including those that need specialty care. Currently, there are already 109 doctors – from Batanes to Zamboanga – enrolled in the NTSP. DTTBs are being taught how to do telereferrals to refer difficult to handle cases in 5th to 6thclass municipalities of the country. 26 of them will be deployed in the Mindanao while some will be assigned in Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas.
Due to the absence of doctors in rural communities, most patients have to travel long hours in order to seek medical attention from clinical specialists in provincial or city centers. According to President Benigno S. Aquino III, as reported by DOH Secretary of Health Enrique T. Ona in his speech last March, 30 percent of Filipinos die without seeing a health professional.
Telemedicine offers some relief to the country’s health challenges by connecting health workers in poor remote rural communities with specialists in the Philippine General Hospital. With the implementation of the 5-year partnership of DOH and UP under the National Telehealth Service Program (NTSP), local health professionals from 606 poorest municipalities and regional centers will be connected to clinical specialists via telemedicine.
“Telemedicine has to be practiced professionally, grounded on a strong ethical-legal base; hence the need to train health professionals is a core component of the NTSP,” Dr. Portia Fernandez-Marcelo, NTHC director said.
“Telemedicine, under the NTSP is free of charge to the patients since this is subsidized by the DOH and the UP. While ICT advancements are beginning to be used in health care in the Philippines, the public is warned against those who take advantage of the situation,” she added. According to Dr. Marcelo, there were informal reports that some doctors in the rural areas, who are not enrolled in the certificate course of NTSP, are charging 300 pesos for telemedicine of NTHC.
The course consists of a two day-intensive hands-on training on the ethics and practice of telemedicine. On the first day, a series of discussions for the doctors’ Continuing Medical Education was held. This was followed by the hands-on training on mobile health technologies.
The Certificate Course in eHealth and Telemedicine is a 6-month blended learning course with 2-day face-to-face learning activities, followed by field practice and mentoring, capped by another 1-day face-to-face seminar workshop.
The UP Manila National Telehealth Center
Established in June 1998, the University of the Philippines National Telehealth Center (UPM NTHC), has been collaborating with different sectors in the realm of information and communications technology (ICT) for health and development. The Center affirms its mandate of “putting health in the hands of the people” through available technologies by linking health care professionals of the Premier State University and the communities, especially the underserved.
The Center works under the OneHealth banner, NTHC’s three-point program that merges innovative applications in eLearning, eRecords, and eMedicine for health care and eHealth policy advocacy.
UPM NTHC collaborates with like-minded institutions to harness support for better health care for all through technologies that are accessible, affordable, appropriate, and culturally acceptable for Filipinos. By banking on individual’s capacities, the center believes that people can use information and communications technology for sound decision making contributing to better health outcomes. NTHC technologies are built in the strength of free and open source software.
Melissa J. Pedreña, RN
eHealth Nurse and Coordinator for Telemedicine Certificate Course
Phone:+63 2 5256501(telefax)