Formulating the National Policy on Telehealth for the Philippines through Stakeholders’ Involvement and Partnership

Portia H. Fernandez-Marcelo,1 Arturo M. Ongkeko Jr.,1 Patrick G. Sylim,1 Alyssa Marie A. Evangelista-Sanchez,1 Abby Dariel F. Santos,1 Jonathan G. Fabia1 and Gene A. Nisperos1,2

1National Telehealth Center, National Institutes of Health, University of the Philippines Manila
2Department of Community and Family Medicine, College of Medicine and
Philippine General Hospital, University of the Philippines Manila

The Philippine Department of Health (DOH) recognized the potentials of information and communication technology (ICT) as a valuable aid to achieve Kalusugan Pangkalahatan (KP) or Universal Health Care for all Filipinos. In 2011, the Development of the National Telehealth Service Program (NTSP) in the DOH Project was proposed and implemented as a collaborative and developmental project of the DOH, with the University of the Philippines-Manila through the National Telehealth Center. The Project defined operational and policy issues critical in incorporating telehealth as a standard program, service delivery and information management mode in the DOH. To sustain this beyond the current Project financing and political leadership, as well as to provide a policy framework to guide the implementation of telehealth in the country, a DOH administrative order (AO) was proposed. Stakeholder feedback was sought to surface views and concerns to ensure better relevance and effective policy implementation. Four public fora were held from 2012 to 2014 participated in by 241 individuals from the national agencies and local governments, project implementers, academe, and the private sector. General comments centered on governance and ensuring representation by patient advocate groups and the local governments. Capacity building and financing of telehealth, and regulation especially with regards to ethical use and protection of patients' privacy were prominent concerns. Participants affirm the preference for the poor and marginalized, although envision that telehealth and digital health information systems should be standard components of health care in the country. Other comments were specific to telemedicine and using mobile phones to report on health services from the frontline clinics. Recommendations are presented.

Key Words: Telehealth policy, stakeholders, telemedicine, eHealth, mobile phone-based reporting, ICT in health