National eHealth strategy to improve health information collection and management

Dr. Alvin Marcelo of PhilHealth presents the Philippine eHealth Development Plan

“Information has become a core commodity in a well-functioning health system. In a complex and crucial sector such that of health, management of information requires a strategy that allows stakeholders to securely and optimally use information and communication technology (ICT) to communicate and interact toward improved health outcomes,” stressed Dr. Alvin Marcelo, Chief Information Officer of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) in his presentation titled, “The Philippine eHealth Development Plan: Leveraging ICT for a More Efficient Health Sector” during the 13th National Forum on Health Research for Action last November 20, 2012.

To move away from the pen and paper approach of managing country’s health information, the PhilHealth has proposed the commencement of the Philippine eHealth Development Plan (PeHDP), a roadmap towards effective implementation of a national eHealth strategy for better health programs and services delivery. As described by Dr. Marcelo, “The eHealth is a higher level concept of medical informatics which deals about different ways ICT is used in health such as, according to WHO, taking care of patients’ records, conducting research, tracking diseases and monitoring of public health. Alongside is Telemedicine which is the use of medical information in exchange from one site to the other by electronic means.”

For the effective creation, implementation and maintenance of a national eHealth strategy, a review on the past and current country efforts on the use of ICT for health was conducted. The assessment revealed that unclear governance structure in terms of managing the country-level eHealth strategy, lack of a blueprint for the design of health-sector wide information systems, and absence of standards, capability building and compliance are significant barriers towards the realization of a national eHealth.

In finding solutions to the identified challenges, Dr. Marcelo pointed out, “Once issue on governance is addressed, solutions to other known problems follow. Governance sets everything. When we have the people accountable in place, we can start working with the enterprise architecture, work on the standards, build the interoperable IT system and train the users.”

The PeHDP will detail description on enterprise architecture for health, standards for interoperability, capability building, and compliance mechanisms required for the conception of the national eHealth strategy.  To engage both public and private health stakeholders in the greater health information highway, the PeHDP will provide how-to guidelines in building their information systems.

In closing, Dr. Marcelo recommended, “To have an eHealth-enabled environment, we must first identify the people or institutions that should be involved in the management of eHealth strategy, create the eHealth Development Plan, establish multisectoral eHealth Development Council, promulgate the plan and governance through policy and review of ICT projects that have impact in the Kalusugan Pangkalahatan dashboard.”