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Health care in the Philippines is getting a much-needed boost through the use of information and communications technology (ICTs) in the recent years. Institutions, health professionals, and students, have embarked on small and even large scale projects using ICTs towards meeting social goals. eHealth – the use of ICTs in health – as a discipline and practice, is fast developing in the country. It presents new challenges in clinical practice and data management; protecting patient's privacy, safety, professional and institutional accountability are among concerns. Whilst providing proof that the eHealth innovation can actually work in real-life clinical settings, enablers to sustain such are likewise necessary.
This issue of Acta Medica Philippina presents case reports on three eHealth applications using different technology platforms: the first recorded telepathology consult in the Philippines, the multi-awarded CHITS electronic medical records system and the R4Health – a mobile phone-based variant of CHITS implemented in over 246 rural remote communities collecting close to real-time information on maternal and child health services delivered at the front lines. One article examines health information privacy in the Philippines, another discourses ethics in eHealth. The Philippine policy context for eHealth likewise is evaluated; developing the legal framework and stakeholders' perspectives on a national policy to institutionalize telehealth as a modality to provide access by rural remote communities to specialist care are discussed.
More Filipino eHealth R&D need to be done, and should be written about in the future; we begin with these papers. We look forward to a critique of these articles, continuing and future discourse. But more hopeful, is the adoption of lessons raised into more concrete action in clinical practice, health systems strengthening, and in policy.
Portia Grace H. Fernandez-Marcelo, MD, MPH
Director, National Telehealth Center
National Institutes of Health
University of the Philippines Manila