A bill that will develop and expand telemedicine and electronic health (eHealth) in the Philippines has been filed at the House of Representatives. The Philippine E-Health and Telemedicine Development Act of 2020 will enable the delivery and access of medical and healthcare services through a new ICT infrastructure.
The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the urgent need to step up the healthcare services of the country, in particular for remote delivery of medical services. In addition, there is a significant geographical disparity in terms of distribution of medical facilities in the country. In 2016, there are 23.1 hospital beds per 100,000 people in the National Capital Region compared to 8.2 hospital beds in the rest of Luzon, 7.8 in the Visayas, and 8.3 in Mindanao.
The Philippines is also facing issues of hiring and retaining health professionals in some parts of the country. While the Philippines has a National Telemedicine Center, it has no telemedicine and eHealth framework. All these challenges and issues are aimed to be addressed by the bill.
The Philippines’ Daily Inquirer summarized the key features of the bill as below:
- Establishes the components of electronic health systems;
- Identifies the structure for leadership and governance of the sector, identifying the Department of Health as its primary regulator, and setting fundamental policies for coordination and governance of the sector;
- Enables and regulates eHealth services and solutions;
- Sets basic sector standards and mechanisms for interoperability with conventional and other modes of healthcare service delivery, by defining standards of eHealth systems and services, and promoting synergies between different modes;
- Sets mechanisms for policymaking, monitoring, and compliance, including the formulation of required policies, guidelines, and compliance mechanisms to support the attainment of the quality and acceptable eHealth systems and services. This would also make telehealth services accredited with Philhealth;
- Promotes and regulates the necessary health and supporting infrastructure;
- Lays the regulatory foundations for human resources in the eHealth system;
- Develops a framework for strategy and investment in the eHealth sector; and
- Identifies strategies for industry development, such as promoting the accreditation of eHealth with insurance providers, training medical and non-medical support personnel, and ensuring eligibility to industry-promoting incentives.
(Sources: Philippine Daily Inquirer; Philippine News Agency; BusinessWorld)