Consulting docs via telemedicine proposed

SENATOR Sonny Angara on Wednesday said that development of telemedicine as a viable alternative to physical visits to the doctors should actively be pursued.

​In this time of COVID-19 when the transmission of the coronavirus is fast and potentially dangerous for certain individuals, Angara said technology and innovation is key to bridging the gap between patients and health care professionals.

​“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 being highly contagious, physical visits to physicians is discouraged, which makes the situation even more difficult for the public,” Angara 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. During these times, the use of telemedicine could help bring the necessary health care to our people and more importantly, save lives,” Angara added.

​Apart from putting up the infrastructure required for remote consultations, Angara said artificial intelligence could also play a significant role in facilitating the delivery of health services to the people.

Telemedicine is not a new concept. Back in 2010, the Congressional Commission on Science Technology and Engineering (COMSTE), of which Angara was a member, already identified “telehealth” as a national priority.

​At the time, Angara’s father, the late former Senate President Edgardo Angara, as chairman of the COMSTE noted how telehealth could be “a game changer in the country.”

Apart from giving people who reside in remote areas access to basic health care services, the elder Angara said that telemedicine will also create the foundation for digital medical records.

​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.

​It has also been assisting the Department of Health (DOH) in its Doctors to the Barrios program to manage patients in need of specialty care.