Speech ofSecretary Enrique T. Ona - The National Telehealth Symposium

July 3, 2013

3 July 2013 | 8:00- 9:00 AM| Bayleaf Hotel

At the start of my term, on October 2010, I delivered the Aquino Health Agenda on behalf of the President at the Asian Institute of Management. In that speech, I shared my dream of a more efficient health system made possible through the effective use of information and communications technology.

In pursuit of this dream, the ICT4Health (or ICT4H) Technical Working Group was formed, who together with an expanded community, put their heads together and arrived at a set of key actions that we could take. The ICT4H TWG recommended an enterprise architecture for health, the promulgation of health information standards, capability-building programs for health information systems development, and a compliance mechanism for aligning all three.


Nearly three years later, I am pleased to see the first fruits of this effort. First and foremost at the Department of Health, the draft Administrative Order for Health Information Standards is now going through the process of public consultation and peer-review. We hope to have this published by the fourth quarter of this year and start engaging the academe and private sector to begin building standards-compliant systems.

At PhilHealth, the full electronic claims program is ready for implementation. Six health information technology providers have passed PhilHealth's stringent accreditation process and will begin offering their services to hospitals. This will push hospitals and PhilHealth to greater levels of efficiency. In addition to faster and more transparent processing, the eClaims program will open up tremendous opportunities for health outcomes research and utilization review.

And now here at UP Manila, we see the final pieces of the puzzle: the community health information systems and telemedicine. For so long, we have known that the accurate and timely data in our local health centers hold the key to monitoring the performance of our health system. But since time immemorial, government has not systematically implemented in such information systems.

I am pleased to learn that the Department of Budget and Management has decided to invest on UP Manila's Community Health Information Tracking System as part of the Medium-term IT Harmonization (MITHI) Project. In addition, the Department of Science and Technology provided seed funds for the RxBoxTelemedical Device.

Together with DOH's own investments on the National Telehealth Service Program, and Health Facilities Enhancement Program and more, I foresee DOH coordinating the convergence and interoperability of these three departments towards making health services more efficient and effective to our citizenry especially those in underserved areas.

Now that we are in the middle of President Aquino's term, we need to be more decisive with our ICT strategies in health. I have therefore decided to renew the mandate of the ICT4H TWG and have them begin work on a national ICT Capital Investment Plan similar to the Canadian Infoway Model or the Australian National eHealth Transition Authority. This will consolidate the dispersed funds towards a common agenda of KalusuganPangkalahatan.

The ICT4H will recommend next steps to DOH including creating a multi-sectoral governance system, investments on cost-effective standards, and monitoring mechanisms that comply with state-of-the-art world class IT auditing methodologies.  

I congratulate the National Telehealth Service Program Oversight and Management Committees, headed by Undersecretary Ted Herbosa and BLHD Director Nestor Santiago, respectively for seeing through the implementation of the NTSP. I am happy to hear that so many doctors, nurses, and midwives now have access and are using information technology for data collection.  Soon NTSP seeds should push our health workers to use these data, now immediately available at their fingertips, for better patient care and public health decision making.

The near to final draft of the Administrative Order on the National Telehealth Service Program is a testament to the health sector’s commitment to institutionalize NTSP, and in general, telehealth in our country. By providing our knowledge, opinions and constructive criticisms, we know that we are making every step of the way count.

The new amended Philhealth Law (RA 10606), further provides for the sustainabilty of the NTSP.  I quote,

          Section 10,   "(w) To endeavor to support the use of technology in the delivery of health care services especially in farflung areas such as, but not limited to, telemedicine, electronic health records, and the establishment of a comprehensive health database;"...

          Section 26, further admonishes the Local Government Units that  “... the capitation payments given to them by the Corporation on health infrastructures or equipment, professional fees, drugs and supplies, or information technology and database..”

Lastly, please accept my deep gratitude to University of the Philippines - Manila for its perseverance in guiding the country towards more effective health information systems.

And for all of us here in this Symposium, we are the duty bearers of protecting the right of the Filipino people to health,   our collaboration on Telehealth should continue.

Thank you and Magandangumagapo!