The practice of Telemedicine in the Philippines started taking root in 2016 with altruistic intentions. Telemedicine was strictly developed for the sole purpose of helping Filipino people by providing healthcare service to the farther flung areas of the country.
The earliest forms of Telemedicine practice were in the form of the RxBox: a computer program which gave Filipinos access to free online consultation with a doctor. It is equipped with six medical sensors including a cardiotocograph, a fetal heart rate monitor, an electrocardiogram, a blood pressure monitor, a pulse oxymeter, and a temperature sensor. The primary goal of these boxes were to reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, and detect non-communicable diseases.
To manage the database, The Philippine Research, Education, and Government Information Network (PREGINET) was developed. Both the RxBox and PREGINET were innovated by scientists from the University of the Philippines in collaboration with the Department of Science and Technology. Walk-in patients first register information into the machine. The database would run a quick diagnosis, set priorities for service, and direct said patients to the appropriate medical facility nearest to them.
The RxBox was first tested in almost impossible to reach municipalities to determine its ability to survive the climate and the people. A concern in the design was the lack of electricity, and telecommunication in these locales as well as the illiteracy of the population when it comes to machines. The goal was to eventually upload and make readily available medical information digestible even for the uneducated and illiterate – and the RxBox has since undergone tweaks and changes to improve quality and accuracy.
However, despite the early successful tests of the RxBox, Telemedicine in the Philippines never really took off. Being a non-profit innovation, it lacked the funding to streamline the availability of the machines until it eventually fell off. Over two thousand RxBoxes were manufactured and distributed to critical areas in 2016 and 2017, aimed at 3,500 municipalities. As of that time, the government expenditure per RxBox was at Php3.5-million (roughly $68,000). Although this is significantly much cheaper than training and employing willing medical professionals, recent cuts to the budget for healthcare are putting the future of the RxBox at risk.
As of January 24, 2019, the Lower House has approved a bill that would incorporate telemedicine in government-provided healthcare service under the National eHealth System and Services Act.
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