The World Health Organization (WHO) defines telemedicine as the delivery of health services where distance is a critical factor by healthcare professionals using information and communications technology. While telemedicine provides patient services such as diagnosis, treatment, injury and disease prevention, it also serves as a platform for further education of healthcare providers in advancing the health of the communities they belong to.
The current state of telemedicine in The Philippines
As an archipelago home to over 100 million people, the Philippines is a nation where telemedicine can be a viable option to expand the reach of healthcare providers and resources, especially for the benefit of communities in far-flung locations. Although telemedicine can result in improved healthcare access, cost-efficiency, and patient satisfaction, but the search for better telemedicine and e-health systems in the country is still nascent. While visibility and dialogue on the need to improve the country’s current telemedicine systems was brought to higher attention with the advent of COVID-19, there are still barriers that stand in the way of further development and widescale implementation.
Currently, there have been some initial attempts by some private and government organizations to provide telemedicine services to a nation with high rates of both digital literacy and mobile adoption. While collective efforts through the years have partially addressed some pre-COVID implementation barriers such as the lack of awareness, technical resources, training, and security measures, there remains a need for clear guidelines and standards for providers to consistently ensure high quality, safe, reliable, and efficient delivery of healthcare services through telemedicine.
As a focused leader in the field of health technology, at Philips, we strive to make the world healthier and more sustainable through innovation. Our goal is to improve the lives of 2.5 billion people a year by 2030. In order to do so, we address both the social and ecological dimensions of health and sustainability as reflected in our commitment to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
Our contributions to health and well-being for all is a key pillar in our “Healthy people, Sustainable planet” Program. By shifting to a value-based healthcare model, we enhance the work life of healthcare professionals and enable financially sustainable care that improves the patient experience and extends care services to those in underserved areas. Given the geography of the Philippines, telemedicine can bridge the gap between quality healthcare and Filipinos in remote areas in need of those services.
However, with the current situation making community health even more of an imperative, the improvement of our telemedicine and other local healthcare systems must start now.
Telemedicine and Digitalization in delivering value-based care
Technology is a key agent of change in terms of transforming health systems. With digitalization transforming healthcare across the globe, here in the Philippines, our ongoing shift towards digitalization must coincide with delivering value-based care for all Filipinos. As a model geared towards extending access to care while reducing costs, value-based care requires both a shift from response to prevention, as well as a change in focus from treatment of illness to maintaining community wellness.
For the benefit of our communities, especially those in remote areas, care delivery must evolve from episodic to continuous – supported by digitalization and improved network connectivity. To improve telemedicine and e-health services in the country, we must approach care from a holistic perspective – looking beyond public health to see its established links with environmental health and sustainability. Instead of products, we provide sustainable services and solutions to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment strategies from the start, which brings up patient satisfaction and drives down both cost and waste.
A recent example of a project implemented was the successful deployment of a first-of-its-kind Clinical Command Centre solution with East Metropolitan Health Service (EMHS) in Australia to improve patient care and proactively detect the risk of patient deterioration. As a cornerstone of EMHS’s Health in A Virtual Environment (HIVE) program, the Clinical Command Centre solution drives a hub-and-spoke model of care utilizing machine learning, and predictive analytics to reduce length of stay as well as complications, avoidable transfers and mortality.
The Clinical Command Centre is based at Royal Perth Hospital, overseeing inpatients in step down units and higher acuity wards. Utilizing a model of care refined by Philips over the last 20 years, EMHS clinicians and nurses will be providing a virtual safety net of specialist support for over 100 beds over the next five years.
By integrating innovations with the accessible platform of telemedicine, we provide better care for more people, improving lives in the process. However, the task of expanding care is not up to a single party alone. As the challenge of health must be addressed through a multi-disciplinary perspective, many entities must work together to ensure the best possible outcome for our communities. From private companies, financial institutions, donors, government units, Non-Government Organizations (NGOs), to community stakeholders, we all must shoulder the task to deliver better digitally-enabled solutions for optimal community care and better quality of life all throughout the country.