By Ma. Teresa Montemayor

GLOBAL HEALTHCARE WEEK. Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa looks at a graph at the Global Healthcare Week in Abu Dhabi in this undated photo. The event aims to bring global health leaders together to discuss the changes and challenges in global health. (Photo courtesy of the DOH)

MANILA – The Philippines continues to face challenges in digitalizing healthcare, Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Teodoro Herbosa said.

The country’s geography is one of the factors, with nearly 60 percent of households still lacking internet access.

“About 12 percent of Filipinos lack electricity, hindering digital technology use, especially in isolated areas,” Herbosa said during his talk at the Global Health Care Week from May 13 to 15 in Abu Dhabi.

Herbosa said infrastructure remains inadequate outside the National Capital Region despite making progress on digital healthcare during the Covid-19 pandemic when telemedicine became available.

To bridge digital challenges, Herbosa underscored the importance of investing in telehealth and digital literacy programs.

The emergence of telemedicine helped patients through the provision of remote healthcare services during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Herbosa said this reduced the unnecessary burdens on the health system as individuals need not visit health facilities to be treated.

“As we navigate the intersection of technology and healthcare, we must remember that behind every data point and digital interface, there’s a human being seeking care and compassion. Let’s harness the power of innovation responsibly, ensuring that it serves humanity rather than replacing it,” he added.

The healthcare week aims to bring global health leaders together to discuss the changes and challenges in global health.

In the event, Herbosa tackled “Human UX: Maintaining Humanity in an Era of AI-Enabled and Digital Healthcare” where he addressed the critical balance between rapid technological advancements and preserving the human-centered approach in healthcare.

Digitalization of the country’s healthcare system and improving access to essential medicine during his leadership are the top two priorities of Herbosa since he was appointed Health secretary last year. (PNA)