By Anna Valmero
ILOILO CITY, ILOILO— The Department of Health (DoH) and telecom firm Smart Communications Inc. is piloting an electronic health or e-health system that aims to reduce maternal deaths among Filipino women.
A leading cause of maternal death during childbirth is hemorrhage. This is especially common among Filipino pregnant women in remote villages who had to go through long travel hours before being attended by physicians in the nearest available hospital.
In the Philippines, around 162 in 100,000 mothers die while giving birth that is equivalent to 37,000 deaths in a year. This figure is far from the Millennium Development Goal target to curb maternal deaths to 52 maternal deaths out of 100,000 live births.
The DoH and Smart recently launched the Secured Health Information Network Exchange (SHINE) in this city.
SHINE is an electronic inter-facility health “e-referral” technology and “e-medical” records service that allows fast and efficient referral of patients in the network of available hospitals.
Some P12 million was used to develop the software network system for SHINE and the training of the health personnel for the one-year pilot in Iloilo.
“Through SHINE, we eliminate the long hours that a pregnant mother spends while looking for a hospital on a trial-and-error basis,” said Mon Isberto, Head of Public Affairs at Smart.
“The midwife could notify the network of hospitals of vacancies and facilities to accommodate special Caesarian deliveries through mobile Internet even before they travel, thus reducing risk of mother's death,” Isberto explained.
Internet access to the SHINE network will be provided free for a year to hospitals in Iloilo.
DoH undersecretary Teodoro Herbosa noted that the existing paper-based health recording and patient referral system is time-consuming especially when managing a patient's medical history.
Transmission of patient records between doctors and hospitals can take a while and not 100 percent accurate. The lack of mechanism to automatically remind patients of their next visit to the doctor also prevents patient care continuity, said Herbosa.
Patients, especially pregnant women, would be reminded of their prenatal checkups via text messaging and the system will monitor if the patient receives the message. In the long run, patients with cellphones that have GPRS or 3G connection and can run Java-based SHINE application to access their medical record.
The DoH official added that diagnosis is faster as doctors can just take photos of the patient's skin and send them via multimedia messaging service to the regional center or Philippine General Hospital for help in diagnosis
Time-consuming paper-based recording for summaries of patient records is also prevented and doctors or midwives no longer have to manually type and search patient records, which occupies one-fourth of their total working time in a day.
“With the automated recording of patient records, we can easily detect an epidemic before it spreads based on the number and cluster of diseases in an area. In terms of diagnosis, doctors in remote areas can easily take a photo of the patient's skin and submit it for diagnosis in hospitals,” said Herbosa.
Moreover, the information generated by the SHINE network can be used by the national and local government to determine relevant information such as areas without local health facilities and doctors.
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