This is the fact. Technology, in general, makes our lives easier. But of course, before this happens, Technology complicates our lives first. This is called “Birthing pains”. This has always been the problem in the development of any technological advancement. I remember the movie of the late Steve Jobs and the development of Macintosh and Apple computers. Months and years are used to develop the now well-accepted Apple products.
For us to answer the question: How can we advance the field of health informatics in the Philippines? We must first identify the problems in health informatics. Dr. Alvin Marcelo in the article “Health Informatics in the Philippines” mentioned that there are issues that impede its progress in the country. First, the lack of health human resource interested in the field. At present, unlike in Medicine, Health Informatics is only offered, as a Master’s degree in the University of the Philippines- Manila with the main objective is to develop innovators in the field of Health informatics in the Philippines. With the limited number of human resources, it is only understandable why the progress of health informatics in the country is slow. Second, poor or lack of network infrastructure. And lastly, many decision-makers in the health sector do not yet understand the benefits of information technology. Because majority of health workers are not exposed to technological advancement in healthcare system, the benefits are not yet known to many. Other issues include confidentiality and privacy, complexity of the system making it difficult for an average person to understand, and of course, the issue of funding.
Health informatics in the Philippines is pioneered in the University of the Philippines-Manila with the establishment of the Medical Informatics Unit (MIU). In 1998, the National Telehealth Center was born with the objective of developing cost effective tools and innovations in the realm of information and communications technology (ICT) for improving health care. Its projects include Community Health Information Tracking System (CHITS), RxBox, National Telehealth Service Program (NTSP) to name a few. The CHITS is an electronic medical record system developed by the NTHC to improve health information management at the RHU level. The RxBox is a telemedicine device capable of capturing medical signals through built-in medical sensors, storing data in an electronic medical record and transmitting health information via Internet to a clinical specialist in the Philippine General Hospital for expert advice. Patients in the rural areas can now consult to specialists even without going to Metro Manila. NTSP is a joint project of the Department of Health and the National Telehealth Center, aimed at expanding Telemedicine in 4th to 6th class municipalities nationwide. NTSP facilitates consults between primary care physicians in rural areas and clinical specialists of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) using a mobile and internet-based interface and triaging system. All these projects are aimed to bring rural communities closer to the metro for better healthcare delivery. In addition, with the aim of generating new blood in Health informatics and formulating a structured learning program in health informatics, Master of Science in Health Informatics (MSHI) in UP-Manila is developed and has formally started with its first batch in 2005.
What can be done to advance Health Informatics in the Philippines?
As Dr. Marcelo mentioned it, MSHI is at the centerstage of health informatics in the Philippines. To increase human resources interested in this field, MSHI should also be offered in other big universities and colleges in the country, especially in Visayas and Mindanao. As i called ourselves Health Informatics warriors, MSHI graduates and students are expected to become leaders in this field that collaborate with other IT professionals to push for organizational and technological changes in health sectors.
Filipinos have now become gadget savvy. In the January 2016 Compendium of Global Digital, Social and Mobile Data, Trend and Statistics, active internet users in the Philippines reached 47 million, and 48 million Filipinos are active Social Media users. Health Informatics warriors should take advantage of these informations to increase the acceptance of health informatics in the country. Because people are using technology already in their daily living, integrating health informatics will not be difficult anymore. They, with collaboration with system developers, are given a more difficult task to simplify systems and programs that the average Filipinos will able to accept and adopt. Because i believe health informatics is the future of the healthcare system in our country, like in the developed countries, funding from different societies or organization for system development will not anymore difficult as probably before.
With every technology, acceptance at first is slow, but progress is inevitable. Open-mindedness is an important trait to acquire.
- Marcelo A. Health Informatics in the Philippines. APAMI/MIST 2006 yearbook