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IT in healthcare curing the clutter

Phoebe Magdirila and Macel Legaspi | Oct. 4, 2011
Behind the healthcare provided to millions of patients in a hospital lies an efficient system in place that aids in faster communications and information dissemination.

Open Source in Telehealth

Local e-health initiatives of the University of the Philippines Manila - National Telehealth Center (UPM -- NTHC) optimizes open source applications to provide e-medicine, e-records and e-learning. "These are our four flagship programs," says Melissa J. Pedreña, e-health nurse and training coordinator for telemedicine of NTHC. Using Frontline SMS and iPath, both free downloadable applications, queries through SMS and e-mail respectively come into their database and are forwarded to the designated medical specialist in the Philippine General Hospital (PGH).

According to NTHC's recent statistics, 43% of the SMS telereferrals have been responded to by domain experts within 15 minutes, while 48% of e-mail telereferrals were answered within 48 hours. While these systems help in providing medical solutions to patients and doctors, Pedreña believes that wider technology media will be even more effective. "Our path is [to provide] video conferencing, more than SMS and e-mail," she notes.

The records system in health centers is also slowly being integrated using the Community Health Information Tracking System (CHITS), a computerized datagathering system that is networked to the reports of various regions. CHITS forms part of the Field Health Service Information System (FHSIS), which helps various department heads in the health sector in their decision-making. Currently, there are 49 health centers that utilize the system. And to further enhance the program, NTHC plans to integrate it in other platforms. "We also plan to integrate CHITS in mobile phones," says Noel A. Bañez, telehealth nurse and coordinator, CHITS, NTHC.

To provide solutions for private health institutions, NTHC also created a customizable system that can cater to the complex IT needs of hospitals. "Right now we are implementing the Open Medical

Records System (MRS) for hospitals, which is also used in different countries like the US and many African nations," Bañez explains.

"With telemedicine, I foresee that our health sector will be more integrated, wherein the transfer of data between one facility to another will not be a problem anymore -- retrieval of information and quality of health care will not be a problem anymore," Pedreña says.


The explosion of the technological needs of hospitals and clinics has triggered a rapid expansion in the product and service offerings of IT firms. Hospital decisionmakers are now IT consumers who are clamoring for workable systems to create an efficient healthcare environment marked by accurate and more focused medical care.

"Local healthcare service providers understand that they need to transform themselves into patient-centered, information- rich organizations," says Doug Del Prete, healthcare subject matter expert, Global Business Services, IBM Philippines.

As part of their smarter planet ideology, IBM also envisions smarter healthcare, wherein health systems are targeted to be interconnected through advanced analytics. "Healthcare does not have boundaries and information should not be siloed," he says.


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