The DOST-ASTI’s PREGINET helps advance Telemedicine initiatives in the time of COVID-19
The Novel Coronavirus 2019 caused the world’s greatest turmoil by taking the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the span of just a few months. At present, the highly dreaded virus continues to infect millions of people around the world, reaching 18 million cases as of July 2020, according to the John Hopkins University. With the staggering record of COVID-19 cases and death toll rising each day, the global health and medical community is exerting every inch of effort to learn more about and help beat this pandemic.
Amid the strict quarantine measures imposed in the Philippines and the restriction of physical gatherings and international travel, our medical institutions and healthcare professionals remained connected through Telemedicine, a multiplatform technology that has bridged the global divide among medical societies and hospitals in the Philippines and in the world. The Philippine Research, Education, and Government Information Network (PREGINET) of the Department of Science and Technology–Advanced Science and Technology Institute (DOST-ASTI), the only Research and Educational Network (REN) of the nation, has supported Telemedicine initiatives since 2007.
Through the utilization of PREGINET’s high-speed research network, Telemedicine has made it possible for patients to have remote consultations with their doctors and healthcare professionals. Telemedicine, with the help of PREGINET, has also enabled healthcare professionals to continue gaining medical knowledge through real-time virtual conferences and webinars with colleagues in and out of the country—unfettered by physical borders and equipped with high-quality videoconferencing tools.
To further propel the initiatives of Telemedicine, PREGINET has been working closely with the Telemedicine Network of the Philippines (TNP) to facilitate and support online events and educational webinars that are of great importance to healthcare practitioners in the local and international scenes. In the past months, the conducted activities regarding Telemedicine have centered more on the fight against COVID-19.
The covered topics ranged from the new protocols and guidelines on adapting to the pandemic, to coping with the new normal through physical and mental health exercises, and to the challenges of distance learning. The following photos and descriptions detail a few of these recent events, made possible by the DOST-ASTI’s PREGINET and the Telemedicine Network of the Philippines, and in partnership with various medical societies and hospitals in and out of the country.
On 24 April 2020, the webinar "Impact of COVID-19 on Innovations and Planning in Surgery" by the Philippine Association of HPB Surgeons (PAHPBS) and the Philippine Association of Laparoscopic and Endoscopic Surgeons (PALES) centered on the impact of COVID-19 disruptions and discussions on emergency endoscopy.
Another April event, "Maintaining a Culture of Safety During the Pandemic," was conducted on 30 April 2020. The webinar covered topics regarding the COVID-19 and Laparospic Surgeries, presented by the Rizal Medical Center, St. Luke’s Medical Center, and Asian Hospital Medical Center.
The joint webinar "Continuing Medical Education During the COVID-19 Pandemic" on 08 May 2020 by the Philippine College of Surgeons (PCS) and the Philippine Society of General Surgeons (PSGS) offered insights on the challenges of online learning and the acquisition of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) units during the quarantine.
"Essentials of the New Normal" was a two-part webinar series on 15 and 21 May 2020. The webinar series featured talks from international health practitioners from Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, and other partner hospitals. The discussions focused on guidelines for the new normal, including the operational preparedness of hospitals for surgery during the pandemic.
Before May ended, the webinar "PSMID and PHICS Guideline: Updates on the Management and Control of COVID-19" was conducted on 29 May 2020. It featured talks from health professionals from the UERM College of Medicine, the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (PSMID), and the Philippine Hospital Infection Control Society (PHICS).
On 19 June 2020, the event "Dance Away the COVID Blues" by the Philippine College of Surgeons (PCS), together with the Association of Women Surgeons in the Philippines (AWSP), featured the physical and mental health benefits of dancing, and encouraged webinar attendees to follow the dance moves of the artistic dance director, Ms. Anna Kathrina Halili Cruz-Bueno.
0n 17-19 July 2020, the "Philippine Association of Laparoscopic and Endoscopic Surgeons (PALES) Virtual Congress 2020," an annual convention, presented a diversity of topics on laparoscopy and endoscopy to its attendees, and featured a live surgery session at the Rizal Medical Center.
Aside from these activities, there are plenty of other notable events organized by the Telemedicine Network of the Philippines (TNP) and DOST-ASTI’s PREGINET in partnership with other medical societies and hospitals. St. Luke's Medical Center health practitioners Dr. Alvin Marcelo and Dr. Jeffrey Domino both expressed how PREGINET has been an important umbilical cord between them, the members of the TNP, and the rest of the world. Especially during the sudden onslaught of the pandemic, they explained how PREGINET has enabled a fast and efficient platform for fostering virtual education and medical consultations through its secure network.
Likewise, Dr. Catherine Teh of the National Kidney and Transplant Institute stressed on the significance of DOST-ASTI’s PREGINET to the endeavors of TNP. “DOST-ASTI’s PREGINET has been our strongest link in keeping up with our neighboring countries in the exchange of scientific and clinical advances through tele education. As physicians, we are not technically capable of bridging this gap if not for the engineers of DOST-ASTI’s PREGINET who tirelessly pitch in doing the work in the back end allowing us to exchange ideas, share experiences, learn and grow together with other doctors in the Frontline,” says Dr. Teh.
With the unified goal among healthcare practitioners and medical societies to learn more and share viable knowledge through the advances of Telemedicine and with the unceasing support of DOST-ASTI’s PREGINET, the global health community is taking further steps to uncovering the nature of the COVID-19 virus and other diseases in the world.
PREGINET is the only Research and Educational Network (REN) in the Philippines, which interconnects and catalyzes research among academic, government, and research institutions. PREGINET has links to several overseas RENs including the Asia-Pacific Advanced Network (APAN), Asian Internet Interconnection Initiatives (AI3), and Trans-Eurasia Information Network 3 (TEIN3).