In Part One of this column, I began with a famous quote of the renowned 19th century French novelist Victor Hugo (author of Les Misérables) who said: “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”
Amid the onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic where movement is restricted and hospitals can be overwhelmed, the appeal of telemedicine – whose time has come in the Philippines indeed – can be so powerful.
Dr. Michael (Doc Mike) Aragon, chairman of the League of Data-privacy and Cyber-security Advocates of the Philippines (LeaDCAP) which is one of the prime movers of telemedicine in the country, along with the Philippine Medical Association, called me recently to tell how excited he was that Filipinos could now avail for free the state-of-the-art system called Digital Online Consultation for our People’s Healthcare (DOCPH).
And Doc Mike was even more excited that a very powerful endorser, Sen. Manny Pacquiao, was pushing the powerful idea that “the use of telemedicine can help our people cope with the effects of community quarantine when they need medical consultations in these difficult times.”
“Ang problema ng mga Pilipino ngayon ay kung paano sila makapagkonsulta sa doktor kung may karamdaman sila, hindi lang sa Covid-19 kundi sa lahat ng nararamdaman nila at paano sila pumunta sa ospital na hindi sila mahawaan ng Covid-19 na ito. Kaya last March, nag suggest sa akin ang Philippine Medical Association (PMA) at Private Hospitals Association (of the Philippines, Inc. or PHAPi ) kung paano sila makapagkonsulta sa doktor na hindi sila pumupunta sa ospital… at eto na nga ang tinatawag natin na DOCPH,” Pacquiao said in a radio interview.
Explaining the concept of DOCPH and telemedicine, Doc Mike said: “DOCPH is an original innovation of LeaDCAP that it openly shared free of charge to various healthcare organizations for their use to help our people during the pandemic by utilizing the high technology of artificial intelligence (AI) and digital robotics in the triage protocol of a telemedicine system.”
“By providing effective and professional telemedicine services nationwide directly to the people, DOCPH and its partners intend to help decongest the country's overheating healthcare system so that it can again efficiently serve not only COVID-19 cases but other equally important non-covid (common ailments) cases even if the patient is at home,” according to former Sen. Joey Lina, LeadDCAP president.
Telemedicine using DOCPH has now caught fire since its launching last April 20.
“We started with 100 licensed medical doctors who volunteered from the PMA and another 100 licensed medical doctors from the Beta Sigma Fraternity Medical Group. We have targeted initially 1,000 volunteer doctors but you will be surprised by the enthusiasm shown by our dedicated physicians in serving our nation. As I speak today, are now averaging more than 3000 calls a day from all over the country so we are appealing to our colleagues in the medical field to join us online in serving our people from the comforts of their homes,” PMA vice president Dr. Benito Atienza said.
“The project was conceptualized in March 2020 and has undergone several testings for almost 2 months until it was formally launched on April 20, 2020. The website (www.docph.org) initially got 10,000 clicks or hits upon full operation. Doctors serving at DOCPH come not only from the Philippines but also from other parts of the world like Europe, North America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and these are our Filipino doctors who belong to the OFW sector lending a helping hand,” Beta Sigma Fraternity Medical Group spokesman Dr. Vic Fileto Chua revealed.
“The Private Hospital Association of the Philippines, Inc. (PHAPi) can provide backend support. Our members nationwide can provide referral hospitals geographically located for doctors at DOCPH to tap if the need arises,” PHAPi president Dr. Rustico Jimenez said.
“In this age of digital technology, practical innovations expand geometrically almost instantly. A critical need usually triggers a process that seeks and produces a solution to the need at hand. DOCPH is such an example. It was born out of a necessity to help in the crucial problem plaguing the overheating healthcare system of our country,” explained Philippine Digital Medicine Society president Dr. Hildegard Dineros.
With all the support behind DOCPH and telemedicine, tremendous success seems imminent for an idea whose time has come in the Philippines.