With the advent of the Duterte Administration came a slew of changes. One of the more under-reported changes that this administration is working towards is the overhaul of the Philippine Healthcare System.

In August 2016, Health Secretary Paulyn Jean B. Rosell-Ubial traveled to the Republic of Cuba to observe the country’s healthcare systems. In that trip, the DOH Secretary made these key observations:

Prioritize the accessibility of doctors. In Cuba, there is one doctor per 1,075 citizens. The Philippines’ doctors, by contrast, serve 33,000 patients per doctor. This is why the goal of the DOH is to raise 35,000 doctors more, in order to serve between 2,000 to 5,000 patients. [Statistics Source]

Prioritize mental healthcare. Cuba has an existing outpatient service for mental health patients. The Philippines, on the other hand, doesn’t even have a mental health law.

    Prioritize healthcare as a government expense. The Health Secretary noted that Cuba allocated 28% of their national budget to healthcare, translating to $460 per capita. On the other hand, the Philippines spends only $76 per capita.  [Statistics Source]

§  The Philippines has 1 in 5 or 20% of the whole population suffering from mental health issues. In a population of 100 million, this translates to 20 million mentally ill patients.
§  The Philippines has only 700 doctors serving the 20 million population of mentally ill patients.

Aside from these dire priorities of the health care system in the Philippines, there is another issue that begs to be addressed: That of the urgent need for an electronic medical record system to be rolled out across hospitals and clinics.

Retired pediatrician Dr. Leonardo Leonidas wrote of a story about how a nurse from Maine, USA visited his pediatrician’s office in 1994. The nurse rated his office at 92.3%, no doubt, a higher rating against the 89.5% average of the rest of the pediatricians in Maine.

Dr. Leonidas pointed out that one of the keys that ensured the efficiency of the inspection of his office included the presence of an EMR system. He also outlined how the DOH can effectively implement the EMR system in the Philippines.

Truth be told, given the dire situation of healthcare in the country, going digital or electronic may seem to be a less urgent priority, as opposed to first improving the patient-to-doctor ratio. In fact, the DOH has been looking to prioritize the completion of the Universal Health Insurance, “especially for the poor” first and foremost, then the next top priority is to increase healthcare accessibility on the barangay level.

Given these priorities for the government, a couple of questions beg to be asked: Where does the government integrate the need to keep accurate records of patient care? When does the government aim to ensure that there is data being gathered, in order to determine the next steps in patient and health care improvement?

These are burning questions that need to be addressed. Meanwhile, since the Philippines has a very strong private healthcare sector, one big way that doctors can contribute to nation-building is to ensure that their own patients’ medical records are accurately kept. This way, epidemiological data from the private healthcare sector will be able to contribute to the country’s larger body of healthcare data. And this pooled data, from private and government sectors alike, shall accurately guide and shape ongoing and future healthcare policies. 


Photo Inspiration Credits: Medical Observer

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