Metro Pacific Hospital Holdings Inc. (MPHHI) is stepping up its efforts to find a “new normal” solution that will serve as a common platform for its member hospitals to resume full services to their patients, while keeping hospital foot traffic to a safe minimum. The group is introducing virtual consultation as well as other services such as e-pharmacy, mobile laboratories, remote patient monitoring and continuity of care beyond the hospital room.
Previously considered as a means to provide health care for the needy in remote and therefore underserved areas, telemedicine is now viewed as a way to cope amidst an overwhelmed health system dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Borne out of challenges from COVID-19
“The country’s health care system faces unprecedented challenges because of the ongoing pandemic, caused by a virus that is unfamiliar, and seems easily transmitted,” warned Metro Pacific Investment Corporation (MPIC) chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan when he designated MPHHI-operated Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital (OLLH) as the group’s main COVID referral facility in March.
Three months into the COVID-19 pandemic, MPHHI is now seriously looking at tapping modern information and communication technologies to virtually connect medical professionals with patients in lieu of actual physical meet-ups in hospitals or clinics.
“MPHHI believes that using telemedicine and remote patient monitoring for management of chronic diseases can minimize, though not totally prevent, physical visits of patients to healthcare facilities,” said Eriene C. Lao, Chief Information Officer of MPHHI.
Lao revealed that some hospitals in the group have already deployed telemedicine solutions for virtual consultation, but noted that these solutions were mainly developed in-house.
As a group initiative, she said MPHHI, is in the process of selecting the most feasible solution that will serve as a common “Healing at a distance”
“Telemedicine may be our new normal,” said Lao. “It augments the delivery of primary health care most especially in our country, where the doctor to patient ratio is a challenge.”
She acknowledged that telemedicine, literally meaning “healing at a distance”, could hold the promise of delivering patient-centered care in a post-pandemic era, with its advantages.
Lao explained that telemedicine, and remote patient monitoring, could allow for better management of chronic diseases earlier, and minimize patients from leaving home, if not critically necessary.
“We feel there are business and operational opportunities here,” she said. “Hospitals can optimize the utilization of their bed capacity, improve the efficiency of the healthcare workers, allow collaboration of medical teams from across different hospitals, and give remote hospitals access to more experienced medical practitioners in the big hospitals.”