Cordillera health workers undergo training on telemedicine

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Baguio City ? Seventy eight health workers from the six provinces of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) recently underwent training on using mobile phones and email for delivering health care through the Department of Health?s (DOH) Telemedicine Project. [caption id="attachment_7477" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="Emmanuel Pajarillaga, NTHC eHealth nurse, (left) teaches a doctor on how tap use a smartphone?s screen for activating controls on the phone"][/caption] The project, formally launched as the National Telehealth Service Program (NTSP), is a program of the DOH in partnership with the National Telehealth Center (NTHC) at University of the Philippines Manila. Representatives from DOH – National Center for Pharmaceutical Access & Management, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, who are members of the NTSP?s Project Management Committee, and DOH-Center for Health Development-CAR, were present to lend support to the health workers who participated in the Certificate Course on eHealth. Portia Marcelo-Fernandez, NTHC director, said in her lecture that telemedicine could help ease the problems in the health care system such as the lack of health care professionals in remote communities. The first day training session was devoted to explaining the role of health workers collecting health data, while the second day focused on equipping doctors on creating teleconsults and on teaching nurses and midwives on using smartphones for health data reporting. A continuing medical education was also held in the morning of the training?s second day. ?In a time when the ratio of using mobile phones exceeds the population, we should definitely use these available tools to improve the health situation,? said Dr. Patrick Sylim, NTHC research associate during his talk on how telemedicine in the NTSP works. ?But using technology requires a high degree of responsibility. In telemedicine, we should adhere to the same ethical principles when we were sworn in as medical personnel,? said Dr. Ryan Ba?ez, NTHC eHealth analyst in his talk on the ethical and legal consideration in the practice of telemedicine. ?A doctor may readily call a colleague and ask for an expert opinion but there are certain guidelines that have to be observed in this practice,? he said. [caption id="attachment_7478" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="NThC director Portia Fernandez-Marcelo (right) acts as a patient in one of telemedicine?s demos for teledermatology"][/caption] During the open forum, doctors asked about possible legal liabilities in telemedicine. Ba?ez underscored that the responsibility for patient care remains that of the doctor sending the teleconsult. Currently, there are no laws regulating the practice of telemedicine and telehealth. ?But in the meantime, existing laws such as the Medical Act of 1959, apply, which defines the doctor-patient relationship, including liabilities? Ba?ez said. “The use of cellphones and internet for health care is not always without harm and certainly has limits. Health workers are expected to demonstrate the same or even higher degree of professionalism and responsibility for information exchanged through these tools”, added Marcelo. Health workers also discussed the limitations of manual and paper-based recording. ?Submitting reports to various DOH offices takes time. By the moment they receive the data from our health centers rural health unit, it is already stale and irrelevant,? Marcelo said. ?Authorities may therefore not be able to respond to a disease outbreak immediately.? In a stacking game, health workers learned the importance of their role as health data collectors submitting reports to various DOH offices. ?If we don?t report the right data to DOH, many resources will be wasted,? said Marcelo. ?We are disheartened by the fact that there are a lot of projects initiated but very few have flourished. We hope you understand that we have a lot of work as health workers, but then, we hope that we will be able to maximize this telemedicine initiative,? said Dr Rhodora Montesa, municipal health officer of Asipulo, Ifugao Aside from CAR, NTHC has started training health workers of Eastern Visayas (Region 8), Masbate and Tawi Tawi as part of its priority sites. Apart from specialists from the Philippine General Hospital, the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center has also come on board. Specialists began addressing teleconsults from municipalities from Region 8. ]]>

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