TeleHealth Service In Areas Without Internet.

Satellite internet delivering telehealth service

Internet in the Philippines first became available in March 1994, through connection with SprintLink.

According to AGB Nielsen Philippines reported in 2011, about one of three Filipinos in the Philippines have access to the internet [1]. Internet users rose to 44.5 Million or 43.5% of the estimated 102.3 Million population in 2016 [2].

Despite being called the social media of the world, the country’s internet status lags behind its ASEAN neighbors and the rest of the world in terms of internet speed, cost, and accessibility. An undeniable reason for this lagging performance is the nation’s geography. The Philippines is an archipelago comprising of more than 7,107 islands, which makes communication infrastructure a costly investment. How can we then improve the country’s healthcare system by reaching far-flung areas of the country without the internet?

Telehealth or Telemedicine: Which is Which?

The intersection of medicine and technology can be a confusing place. In many of my writings and lectures, I have frequently used the term interchangeably. Is there a distinction between the two?

The term telehealth includes a broad range of technologies and services aimed to provide patient care and improve the healthcare delivery system. While telemedicine refers solely to the provision of health care services and education over a distance, through the use of telecommunications technology, telehealth can refer to remote non-clinical services, such as provider training, and continuing medical education. 

Satellite Internet: There’s a BIG SKY out there!

I recently received a proposal to bring CerviQ in for a medical mission up it the north weeks ago. CerviQ is a mobile application that enables non-physician professionals to conduct cervical cancer screening using visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA). The non-physician – midwives and nurses take pictures of the cervix and submit them electronically using the app for interpretation by a medical specialist. Results from the cervical screening are sent back for mobile printing then given to the patient. But how can we do all that without the internet? 

A google search listed the presence of a few satellite internet providers in the country to date. One of largest is a Thai-based satellite broadband provider IPStar. Doing business through We Are IT Philippines Inc. (WIT), the company’s commercial offering for satellite internet (Big Sky 2.0) starts with packages as low as Php 2,999 per month. Higher plans are available for bigger bandwidth. 

TeleHealth Service In Areas Without Internet. 1
TeleHealth Service In Areas Without Internet. 2

Heading to WIT Philippines, Inc., I met with a senior account manager, Mr. Marc Gregory Agustin. We Are IT Philippines Inc. (WIT) is the leading Satellite Broadband Service Provider in the Philippines with over a decade of experience operating Teleports and advance VSAT stations in over 30 countries in the Asia Pacific. Some of the company’s recent achievements include: 

  • enabling free government-sponsored Wi-Fi hotspots nationwide
  • ground satellite connections to rescue organizations following the Typhoon Yolanda and Ompong
  • provided transmission of election data beginning 2010, 2013, 2016, and 2019, 
  •  installation of more than 1,500 VSAT terminals in secondary schools nationwide.

We presented to the WIT team CerviQ’s need for internet in areas telecom towers could not reach. After hours of discussion, the WIT team announces their support to CerviQ’s advocacy. We Are IT Philippines Inc., shall partake in the upcoming CerviQ event caravan planned in April, dubbed as CerviQsyong Rotaryo Para Sa Mamayang Pilipino. The caravan will host a Breast and Cervical cancer screening for five to ten days, moving from town to town in Northern Luzon at a pace of One Town, One Mission, One Day. The project shall be spearheaded by the Rotary International District 3770, through its active District Governor – DG Bienvenido “Jon” Alonzo, in collaboration with CerviQ, and the Philippine Cancer Society. 

TeleHealth Service In Areas Without Internet. 3
TeleHealth Service In Areas Without Internet. 4
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Dr. Bogs Rivera is a radiation oncologist by profession and founder of CerviQ. For more details on CerviQ, kindly check out our website at https://endcervicalcancerph.com/.

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