House panel approves proposed law on national eHealth system

The House Committee on Health chaired by Quezon representative Angelina Tan approved on Tuesday, Jan. 22, a substitute bill seeking to establish the National eHealth Systems and Services that will deliver health services through information and communications technology (ICT).

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The measure provides for an organized and structured application of electronic health or “eHealth” integrated in the regular workflow of healthcare facilities.

Specifically, it seeks to utilize ICT to deliver health services which has the potential to be profitable, improve quality, change the conditions of practice, and improve access to healthcare, especially in rural and other medically underserved areas.

The bill also aims to facilitate the exchange and access to secured personal health information, ensure harmonization or integration, alignment, and interoperability among various eHealth initiatives, and facilitate inter-agency and inter-sectoral coordination at various levels of governance in both public and private sectors.

The measure mandates the Department of Health (DOH) as the lead agency to implement the law and provides for the creation of an inter-agency and multi-sectoral National eHealth Steering Committee to serve as an executive body of the Philippine eHealth System and Services (PNeHSS).

Among the changes approved and introduced in the substitute bill is the provision for public-private partnership of eHealth Services. The bill mandates the DOH to promulgate the rules regarding the participation of the private sector in the provision of eHealth services and solutions, including public-private partnerships and other suitable arrangements.

Also introduced was an additional provision on research and development. The approved measure now specifies that consistent with Republic 10532 or the “Philippine National Health Research System Act of 2013”, the Department of Science and Technology- Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD), in coordination with the DOH, Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), PhilHealth, specialty societies, and non-government institutions, shall ensure the development of new eHealth solutions, services, and innovations.

This shall be accomplished through the formulation of expanded eHealth research priority areas under the National Unified Health Research Agenda (NUHRA) as well as the establishment of knowledge hub and research centers for eHealth.

Moreover, the approved bill details violations of the law and corresponding liabilities and penalties.

For instance, the unauthorized processing of personal information shall be penalized by imprisonment ranging from one to three years and a fine of P500,000 to P2 million. The unauthorized processing of sensitive personal information shall be punished by imprisonment of three to six years and P500,000 to P4 million.

Other violations include accessing personal information and personal sensitive information due to negligence; improper disposal of personal information and sensitive personal information; procession of personal information and personal sensitive information due to negligence for unauthorized purposes; unauthorized access or intentional breach; concealment of security breaches involving sensitive personal information; malicious disclosure; and unauthorized disclosure.

Any person who commits a combination or series of these acts shall be subject to imprisonment ranging from three years to six years and a fine of P1 million to P5 million.

During the hearing, DOH assistant secretary Enrique Tayag expressed the support of the DOH for the measure.

“The Department of Health welcomes the new version of this Act because the future of health is being designed with eHealth, the use of information communications technology in health,” Tayag said.

He also suggested that the measure should more clearly provide that private entities are free to use ICT in their delivery of health services.

“Mentioned in this Act is the private sector participation. We want to inform this committee that the Department of Health has been monitoring technology pertaining to eHealth that’s being introduced and being adopted in the health sector. We would want to manifest that regulations of such should be embodied in this act so there will be no misunderstanding that any entity can introduce technology without going through the government regulations,” Tayag explained. — Czarina Engracia

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