Bill seeks to boost, regulate telehealth in PH

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[/caption] Also known as House Bill 6336, the bill is aimed at strengthening Department of Health (DOH)?s telehealth services in at least 606 poor municipalities in the country. Abaya has filed a similar bill in 2009 when he was still co-chair of the Congressional Commission on Science & Technology and Engineering (Comste). The bill, then known as the ?National Telehealth Service Act of 2009?, sought to ?benefit patients and medical professionals who can now use Internet technology to tap medical expertise?. Both the National Telehealth Act of 2009 and the Telehealth Act of 2012 were based on the experience of the National Telehealth Center (NTHC), which has been in the telehealth sector for the last 14 years. NTHC, based at the National Institutes of Health of University of the Philippines (UP) Manila, has been providing telereferrals to doctors in remote communities, conducting educational sessions for local health workers through video-conferencing, and implementing the Community Health Information Tracking System (Chits), an award-winning electronic medical record for government health facilities for more than a decade. In a forum held at UP Manila, Dr. Gene Nisperos, NTHC coordinator for Telehealth Bill advocacy, said there has been a slow but steady increase use of ICT in health in the Philippines. According to him, the various clinics and hospitals that offer teleconsultations and using electronic devices for managing patient medical records prove that ICT is revolutionizing the health care industry. The proposed law, he said, will help connect patients and doctors for medical consultation through ICTs. Nisperos noted the lack of clear legal and social guidelines to guide telehealth practice, ensure patient safety, and preserve patient information confidentiality are issues that the act will battle with. HB 6336 provides the creation of a National Telehealth Board, which will be responsible for crafting policies and guidelines on ethical and safe practice of telehealth in the Philippines. Under the bill, a corresponding National Telehealth Reference Center (NTRC) will be created to implement policies passed by the Board. ?It might take years for the bill to be passed as law, but while there is no regulating policy on it (telehealth) we conform to existing standards and laws, such as the Medical Act of 1959 as well as international standards on patient information confidentiality,? said Melissa Pedre?a, NTHC Telehealth nurse. Pedre?a has been handling telereferrals from doctors enrolled in the certificate course on eHealth and Telemedicine, a part of the DOH?s National Telehealth Service Program (NTSP), which implemented in collaboration with the NTHC. The high cost of providing health care to remote communities and the exodus of health professionals have been cited as some of the reasons why telehealth practice has to be developed in the country.]]>

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