DOH, UP issue guidelines on telemedicine practice in PH

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After a series of consultations, the Department of Health (DOH) and the University of the Philippines Manila have formally issued the guidelines on the practice of telemedicine in the country.

DOH-UP-telemedicine

The telemedicine guidelines comes after the DOH and the National Privacy Commission (NPC) released an earlier joint memorandum circular (JMC) allowing the use of telemedicine as a way to respond to the Covid-19 health crisis.

The DOH-NPC circular recognized the use of electronic medical consultations via electronic means such as videoconferencing. It also allows healthcare providers to issue referrals and prescriptions through the same telemedicine consultation.

Despite the issuance of the document, the DOH said healthcare providers were still reluctant to practice telemedicine because of fear of violating existing regulations and lack of guiding principles.

To address this, the DOH said it had to issue a new circular containing the guidelines on how healthcare providers can proceed in practicing telemedicine. It collaborated with UP Manila’s National Telehealth Center to craft the recommendations.

The JMC laid down keys principles to be observed for the adoption of telemedicine. Among the salient points is that telemedicine should only be used only in situations where a physician is physically inaccessible such as during national emergencies with quarantine protocols in place and follow-up consultations after initial treatment.  

To verify and confirm each other’s identity, both the patients and the physicians should also disclose their personal circumstances. However, a patient must be asked for his or her consent when requested for personal data or offered any telemedicine service. The patient’s data privacy rights should also be protected at all times, including the right to discontinue the telemedicine service at any stage.

To ensure a smooth and effective telemedicine consultation, the guidelines recommended that the minimum technological requirements should include devices capable of taking/streaming videos, noise-canceling headphones or audio equipment, and video-conferencing software, preferably with an integrated electronic medical record system that facilitates private communication.

Among the reference materials tapped in drafting the guidelines include an online column in Newsbytes.PH by lawyer-physician Ivy Patdu, who is also a former deputy commissioner at the NPC.

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