DOH bats for passage of bill that will provide health passports to Filipinos

By Charissa Luci-Atienza

The Department of Health (DOH) has strongly rallied behind the passage of a bill seeking to entitle all Filipinos to a Health Passport which will be used during medical and dental check-ups or treatment in government or private medical institutions.

DOH spokesperson Eric Tayag (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO) DOH spokesperson Eric Tayag

DOH Assistant Secretary Dr. Enrique Tayag said they support House Bill No. 8, the "Health Passport System Act," principally authored by House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, as it seeks to establish the national health passport system and strengthen the primary healthcare system.

"The personal health record or the health passport is with the patient. He is in control of all the information, that is why we lauded Speaker Cayetano's bill because it now engages the patient and empowers him to take care of his health because he has now information in his hands," he told the House Committee on Health during its recent deliberations on a consolidated bill seeking to establish the Philippine eHealth system and services.

Tayag also welcomed the panel's decision to tackle and pass HB 8 separately from the four measures seeking to establish the Philippine eHealth system and services to support the government's implementation of the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law.

During the panel hearing last December 17, Misamis Occidental Rep. Diego Ty urged the Tan panel to pass House Bill 8 separately from all other related bills.

The Tan panel initially consolidated Cayetano's bill with House Bills 61, 171, 665, and 4899 seeking to establish the Philippine eHealth system and services.

"We welcomed the endorsement of Congressman Ty regarding the bill sponsored by Speaker Cayetano that it will be a separate bill," Tayag said.

"We can just put sections that these two bills are interrelated and shall align with the Universal Health Care," he said.

The Tan panel vowed to tackle and pass Cayetano's bill when Congress resumes its sessions on January 20, 2020.

On October 16, a technical working group of the House Committee on Health, chaired by Nueva Ecija Rep. Maricel Natividad-Nagaño passed the bill upon the motion made by Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor.

Cayetano’s bill mandates the DOH, in coordination with the local government units (LGUs), to undertake the implementation of the National Health Passport System.

Under HB 8, the parents or legal guardian of children born after the effectivity of the proposed Act shall be required to enrol their children in the Health Passport Program.

The Health Passport shall be employed to record the child’s initial medical check up, including the necessary immunization, the bill provides.

In pushing for the passage of his bill, Cayetano stressed that medical record keeping plays an essential role in any healthcare system.

“For Filipinos in general, it is not usual practice to keep such documentation—whether of previous check-ups, diagnostic test results, medications, treatments, and procedures done, among others. Thus, assisting Filipinos in record keeping and making medical history available should also be given emphasis and priority by the government,” he said.

“The Health Passport System can help address this gap as its purpose is to provide each Filipino with a document that reflects each individual’s full medical history and other relevant data, providing both the medical practitioners and the patient a full picture of the latter’s condition. In the event of emergencies, this will also be a handy tool that can be essential in saving lives,” he pointed out.

HB 8 provides that the Health Passport shall be the mobile record booklet of the patient containing the following: patient’s medical and dental history as recorded by the physician, dentist or authorised health professionals; medical and dental test results; diagnosis; medicines and medical treatment availed of; basic medical data; information on all medical and health related benefits provided by laws; and information regarding the patient’s medical rights and privileges under passport system.

“The Health Passport shall serve as the patient’s official recognition that he should avail of the free medical and dental diagnostic tests in government hospitals subject to the requirements to be set by the DOH and the local government units where passport holder resides,” the bill said.

The bill provides that access by proper medical authorities to the recorded data shall be made upon the passport holder’s prior consent. In the absence of the relatives, the physician in charge of the patient shall be authorised to review the patient’s passport, it said.

Under the proposed Health Passport Program, all Filipino citizens shall be entitled to a health passport, which shall be used whenever a patient avails of medical and dental check-ups or treatment provided in government or private medical institutions.

HB 8 tasks the city, municipality, and/or barangay, together with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), to evaluate the applicants for the free medical and dental diagnostic tests.

Those qualified shall then be recommended to the primary medical institution or the concerned local government unit for the issuance of the health passports.

Those who want to obtain the health passport without availing of the privilege of free medical and dental diagnostic tests may directly secure the health passport from medical institutions or LGUs implementing the program.

Under the bill, rural health centers in the country are directed to digitize all medical records and evaluation results to create a shareable database to consolidate all information that will be easily accessible in time of need.

HB 8 calls for the allocation of P100 million, which shall be included in the annual appropriation of the DOH for the next five years for the implementation of the proposed Act.

It requires the DOH to promulgate the implementing rules and regulations of the proposed Act and administer the program.