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Reinventing how care is delivered

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As technology evolves through time, it has become the driving force of all the improvements in every industry including health care. Digital innovations are revolutionizing the industry in almost all processes — from consultations to health monitoring, and from the ways how lab tests are done up to ensuring patients’ conditions with self-care tools. With these, countless of lives have been saved and the overall quality of life continues to improve.

“In today’s world, technology plays an important role in every industry as well as in our personal lives. Out of all of the industries that technology plays a crucial role in, health care is definitely one of the most important. This merger is responsible for improving and saving countless lives all around the world,” health care information brand Healthcare Business & Technology said in its Web site.

From small innovations like adhesive bandages and ankle braces to large and more complex technologies like MRI machines, artificial organs and robotic prosthetic limbs, technology has made a significant impact. More innovations are expected in the following years as health care professionals continue to find ways to improve their practice.

“Today, the health sector faces a daunting new digital challenge: unleashing the power of technology to fundamentally reinvent how care is delivered,” PwC Global Healthcare Markets Leader David McKeering, was quoted as saying in “Digital health in emerging markets” report, published last year. “On top of their existing technology needs and priorities, today’s health providers need to address the digital requirements demanded by health policy or by consumers and other stakeholders.”

For developing countries like the Philippines, impressive developments in medical technology have helped the country deliver better services to its citizens and addressed some of the challenges in its health care system. However, the country’s adoption with the essential technological innovations remain slow.

“Given the remarkable strides in improving health outcomes since the 1970s, Filipinos are generally living longer and healthier lives,” global publisher Oxford Business Group said in its Web site. “But despite these advances, the country lags behind many of its neighbors on key health indicators, such as the maternal mortality rate and incidence of tuberculosis, and its health expenditure is considerably less than other countries in Southeast Asia. At the same time, lifestyle diseases are emerging as a new health challenge, requiring different responses. These are the issues that the Philippines faces as it moves forward with its commitment to achieve universal health coverage, ensuring that all Filipinos have access to quality, affordable health care.”

Given these, the call for digital adoption in the country’s health care system is essential. As Mr. McKeering explained, “digital health care” is not about the technologies, it’s about new ways of solving health care problems that create unique experiences for patients, and accelerating health care providers’ growth. Over the longer term, the digitization of health services can help improve the quality and access to health care while cutting the costs.

Making its transition to digital, the Philippines has made several initiatives towards ensuring the achievement of the health system goals of better health outcomes, sustained health financing and responsive health system. Through eHealth, or the use of information and communication technologies for health, the Philippines by 2020 is envisioned to “enable widespread access to health care services, health information, and securely share and exchange patients’ information in support to a safer, quality health care, more equitable and responsive health system for all the Filipino people by transforming the way information is used to plan, manage, deliver and monitor health services.”

As noted on the “Philippines eHealth Strategic Framework and Plan 2013-2017”, eHealth has proven to provide improvements in health care delivery and is at the core of responsive health system.

eHealth’s desired outcomes include the improvement of health consumers’ access to health information and maintenance of their personal health record; improved access to appropriate health care services for those in rural, remote and disadvantaged communities via electronic means; and improved access to knowledge, health care services and availability, and resources to assist in managing one’s health.

On health care providers’ part, eHealth would allow them to make more informed decisions through these following desired outcomes: improved access to an integrated or single view of the patients’ health information at the point of care, improved access to systems and health information like clinical decision support tools, medications, clinical knowledge, skills development and others, improved collaboration and coordination among health care providers and interactions with health consumers, improved reporting and monitoring of health care deliveries and/or outcomes, and improved monitoring and tracking of patients.

As Mr. McKeering said, digital health can dramatically improve an organization’s productivity. “This means that if the costs of digital health care solutions can be made affordable, digital health could be an answer to the emerging markets’ challenge to achieve sustainable growth and leapfrog the developed nations to provide quality, affordable, universal and patient-centric care,” he explained. Mark Louis F. Ferrolino