ICT enabled products and services provide major boost to local health sector

Posted on 10/05/2021 06:54 pm
ICT enabled products and services provide major boost to local health sector image

The Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) enabled products and services have become even more relevant and necessary for the local health sector especially during the COVID-19 pandemic as the government seeks alternative and safer means to provide health related services to its citizenry as well as to healthcare workers.

In a virtual discussion dubbed, “Talakayang HeaRT Beat on ICT for Health Projects” held on 29 September 2021, four projects supported by the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCHRD) were featured. Two of which happen to have found novel and noble purposes during the pandemic. 

First is FASSSTER, or the Feasibility Analysis of Syndromic Surveillance using Spatio-Temporal Epidemiological Modeler for Early Detection of Diseases, which the Department of Health uses at the moment to model disease spreads based on the daily COVID-19 related data collected and to formulate evidence-based decisions. 

The other one is the RxBox, which Dr. Nathaniel Orillaza Jr. and Dr. Geoharil L. Hamoy and their team have retooled to serve as telepresence terminals at the Philippine General Hospital. This electronic tool helps minimize both the patients’ and healthcare workers’ physical exposure to COVID-19 patients.

Also presented in the virtual program was the “CHERISH study or the Retrospective Study on the Accuracy of AI-Powered Reading of Chest X-Rays in the Diagnosis of COVID- 19 Pneumonia in a Tertiary Hospital” by Dr. Beatrice Tiangco and her team at the Medical City. The said study aims to facilitate COVID-19 pneumonia diagnosis through an application embedded with AI models.

Another project that is possibly adaptable is the ABC or the “Aruga sa Batang may Cancer” initiative which is a web-based learning management system for healthcare providers that renders pediatric palliative care for children afflicted with this disease. Similar to the RxBox, the all-in-one technology used for this project targets regional health units: healthcare facilities that can only provide basic healthcare services to small, far-flung communities, thus providing less fortunate Filipinos the access to medical care.

Dr. Jaime C. Montoya, executive director of the DOST-PCHRD, said that by highlighting these projects, it becomes interesting to witness how our Filipino innovators are able to step up to the plate and deliver results in a short amount of time given the resources we have.

“As they say, necessity is the mother of invention, and our innovators are capable of producing quality products that could be retooled to fit the needs of the times. The aforementioned technologies are examples of these adaptable and resilient innovations,” said Dr. Montoya. 

Dr. Montoya also shared the theoretical and practical implications of ICT use during the COVID 19 global health crisis. 

“Even beyond the research areas supported by DOST-PCHRD, ICT has huge impact especially in the telehealth or telemedicine services. ICT has bridged the distance towards your healthcare providers like your doctors even in the absence of face-to-face interactions. Through ICT, it enables your doctors to give advice through looking at your medical information and history through online platforms,” said Montoya. 

Meanwhile, DOST Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña underscored the support of the DOST for research initiatives dedicated to data science and eHealth solutions for recording and utilizing patients’ information, mapping of health risks and health resources, telemedicine, and health promotion.

“The projects that we have shown you today are only examples of how we can utilize ICT solutions for health. Through these initiatives, we hope to strengthen the country’s capacities for health and ultimately bring healthcare solutions closer to our communities,” de la Peña said. 

On the other hand, given its importance and roles in the healthcare systems especially in the current pandemic that we are in right now, Sec. de la Peña assured that we have a sustainable and productive innovation in ICT for healthcare system in the country. 

“First of all, in developing the projects, the element of sustainability is also considered.  We ask that question to the researchers and project developers when it comes to their deliverables on how it would be sustained and who will use what have been developed because it is very important that potential users will also indicate ownership of the system. For many years, our researchers have been doing that through training, capacity building and consistent dialogues and consultation with their stakeholders or target beneficiaries,” shared by de la Peña.

Moreover, DOST Undersecretary for Research and Development Dr. Rowena Cristina L. Guevara believes that in the recent year, the impact of ICT in overcoming healthcare barriers was made more apparent by COVID-19.

“We hope that these projects were able to demonstrate how our support for ICT for health research, and R&D as a whole, goes a long way, allowing us to address persisting health concerns and preparing us for future challenges. Especially now as our circumstances compel us to adopt innovative strategies in the delivery of healthcare services, it is crucial that we work together to increase appreciation and funding for the works of our Filipino health researchers,” said Guevara. 

Preceded by the Health Information Systems (HIS) Program under the National Unified Health Research Agenda (NUHRA) 2008, the ICT for Health Program was launched in 2011. It aims to generate tools that will bridge the gaps in healthcare through telehealth services, ICT-enabled medical devices, and public health surveillance. (By: Allan Mauro V. Marfal, DOST-STII and with information from DOST-PCHRD) 

Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña, DOST Undersecretary for Research and Development Dr. Rowena Cristina L. Guevara, and DOST-PCHRD Executive Director Dr. Jaime C. Montoya, and the project leaders of the featured studies composed of Asst. Professor Rita C. Ramos (ABC), Prof. Jason R. Albia and Dr. Beatrice Tiangco (CHERISH), Dr. Maria Regina Justina Estuar (FASSSTER), Dr. Nathaniel Orillaza Jr. and Dr. Geoharil L. Hamoy (RxBox) answered questions related to the technologies and the ICT for Health programs of the DOST-PCHRD during the Talakayang HeaRT Beat on ICT for Health Projects held on 29 September 2021. (Screenshot from DOST-PCHRD)