Smart supports teleconsultation efforts in Mindanao amid quarantines

To support teleconsultation efforts in Mindanao, PLDT wireless arm Smart Communications Inc. (Smart) has extended communications support to the Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC), Davao Central 911, and HOPE Line.

Smart has provided NMMC with LTE phones capable of unlimited texts and calls to all networks and data connections. Each phone was assigned to doctors handling a specific field of specialization, such as pediatrics, obstetrics, and gynecology, surgery, or internal medicine.

Smart also provided load and call conferencing service support for Davao Central 911, as well as a special number for HOPE Line’s telepsychology services 0951-815-HOPE (4673).

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“E-health is among the pillars of the new normal. We are grateful for this opportunity to enable hospitals and local governments with technologies and digital solutions that will help them respond to their customers and constituents faster and more efficiently,” said Alfredo S. Panlilio, PLDT chief revenue officer and Smart president and CEO.

Non-COVID-19 cases

With the rapid spread of COVID-19, other health cases have been overshadowed, with many hospitals like NMMC recording a significant drop in inpatient consultations at the emergency room and out-patient clinics. The NMMC is a tertiary public hospital and one of the COVID-19 referral centers in the region of 5 million.

“This is why we started the NMMC Telekonsulta Service,” says Dr. Aris Austria, Telekonsulta project leader. “We were concerned particularly for our patients with chronic conditions requiring long-term medical care. Every healthcare facility should not focus only on handling the Covid-19 crisis but also consider minimizing ‘collateral damage’ on non-COVID-19 patients.”

The NMMC Telekonsulta Service targets noncritical cases and aims to provide a venue for patients to directly consult medical professionals through their mobile phones.

Since the start of the project in late March, the NMMC doctors have collectively handled more than 400 consultations, sent out almost 200 electronic prescriptions, and facilitated around 50 referrals. They have also set appointments for actual clinic consultations for cases where a clinic visit is absolutely necessary.

Davao Central 911 has been receiving an average of 200 calls daily since it started. The consultations are also primarily for regular/non-COVID-19 patients. However, if a patient has COVID-19-like symptoms and has recent travel history or exposure to a PUI, the case is endorsed to Davao Covid-19 Task Force for proper handling.

With the Covid-19 pandemic far from over, interventions such as teleconsultation are here to stay as part of the “new normal.” As the access to the internet and data-capable phones increase, huge improvements in teleconsultation results and lowered risk of misdiagnosis are also seen.