Teleconsultation: How to deal with health problems without going to the doctor’s clinic

Published December 6, 2021, 10:59 PM

by Faith Argosino

•       Learn more about teleconsultation or telemedicine before you actually need it

•       Many people now ‘see’ doctors and health professionals through teleconsulation to get answers on feelings of being unwell

•       Teleconsultation starts with a message sent via viber or messenger, or an email, or a query in the hospital website

•       On the appointed day, the patient will get a message to start the video call for the teleconsultation

Teleconsultation (Pexels freephoto)

It’s definitely the age of online relationships and transactions — commercial, personal, and medical, all because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

For medical needs, teleconsultation or telemedicine is what has kept people in touch with medical professionals in the last 21 months of the pandemic for all health problems including those not related to COVID-19.  It peaked and became quite standard procedure after the surge in COVID-19 cases came in August 2021 and hospital facilities were overwhelmed.

By today, more than half of the population must have experienced teleconsultation.  It starts with a mobile number or a web address where the patient books an appointment.  The patient pays through an online cash facility either through bank transfer or Gcash. On the appointed date and time, the patient gets a message or a call (depending on the medical professional’s procedures), and the teleconsultation begins.

It’s nothing new to the younger generation, talking to someone through a video conference app.  But it would feel quite awkward at first to older citizens who are not as technically-aware of how mobile gadgets operate.  The first time someone I knew did that, she confessed that it felt quite odd relating one’s health feelings to a doctor through a video teleconference app. The conversation is not always spontaneous because of signal transmission, so one has to allow the other to stop talking before saying more.

But those are minor lapses that people have hurdled to get solutions to health issues. Today, it is important that every person — young and old — get informed about how telemedicine works and where to get it.  It’s especially important when one begins to feel unwell with symptoms related to COVID-19 when one should immediately isolate to prevent the spread of the virus.

Here’s what you need to know about telemedicine:

Teleconsultation, telemedicine, teleconsult

Teleconsultation or telemedicine (or teleconsult as other medical organizations call it) refers to a consultation conducted via the internet. It is the delivery of health care services performed by medical professionals using information and communication technologies to exchange valid information for the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of disease.

Smart gadget and internet connection

The primary things to have in order to consult a medical professional through teleconsultation are:  a smartphone that will allow video conferencing (like zoom, messenger or viber); and a good internet connection If your house has internet connection, that’s perfect.  But if not, make sure you have data to allow internet connection.

Teleconsultation (Pexels free photo)

Where to get this service

The Department of Health (DOH), almost all hospitals, and many health/medical organizations offer teleconsultation.  Among them are St. Luke’s Medical Center, Makati Medical Center, and the Bayanihan E-Konsulta project of the Office of the Vice President.  It is available to COVID and non-COVID patients within Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

Department of Health

The DOH COVID-19 Hotlines 1555 and (02) 894-COVID (26843) are available nationwide for all COVID-19-related concerns since last year, including consultations with volunteer doctors from the Philippine College of Physicians and the University of the East-Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center (UERMMC).

Contact the DOH hotline numbers if you’re a COVID patient. The service is free.

Bayanihan E-Konsulta

In April this year, Vice President Leni Robredo’s office launched the Bayanihan E-Konsulta—a free teleconsultation service on Facebook—with the help of volunteer doctors and health professionals.

According to Bayanihan E-Kontulta’s social media page, the initiative was implemented to support medical frontliners and hospitals to combat the surge of COVID-19 cases. The program also aims to serve those who are unable to get medical care due to overcrowded hospitals.

COVID and non-COVID outpatients in Metro Manila and nearby provinces in the NCR Plus bubble are eligible for free medical service under the program. All you need to do is message the Bayanihan E-Kontulta page and click get started. They will set you an appointment with a physician who will advise your next steps.

The initiative has been handling mostly COVID-19 cases. From April 7 to 12, Robredo reported that they attended to 10,830 medical queries. By August, the initiative was serving 400 queries a day.

(freepik free photo)

Aside from its free consultation services, the page also posts contact information and locations of different organizations and hospitals that offer the same service (some have fees, most are free). Until now the Bayanihan E-Konsulta page is still active and accepts any type of medical queries. For emergency purposes, patients are advised to call the program’s contact numbers at 0919 977 3333, 0915 777 7777, or (02) 8865-0500.

St. Luke’s Medical Center

St. Luke’s Medical Center (SLMC) offers teleconsultation services for COVID and non-COVID patients. They provide step-by-step guidelines on their website on how to get that service, including the modes of payment.

According to the guideline, a patient should call either the Global City or Quezon City hotline of St. Luke’s. An officer will take the call and help one book an appointment with a doctor. The caller will be required to provide personal details such as full name, date of birth, contact number, email address, preferred doctor, preferred date and time of appointment, and reason for teleconsultation.

Patients can also avail of SLMC’s other services, such as Home Service Lab Works and Drive Thru Lab Works, in addition to Teleconsult. Patients can also have their medicine delivered to their homes and take use of COVID-19 Outpatient Imaging Services.

Global City hotline: 0998-5822371 or 8789-7700 ext. 5096
Quezon City: 0999-2212310 or 8723-0101 ext. 4219

Makati Medical Center

Makati Medical Center (MMC) is another hospital that offers a HealthHub teleconsultation service to COVID and non-COVID patients.

According to Makati Medical Center’s website, annual health screenings, immunizations, a healthy lifestyle check, and stress management are all part of the MMC HealthHub’s preventative healthcare program. The program includes illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes, and detecting risk factors for cardiovascular illnesses, as well as gastrointestinal and liver problems.

The service is booked either through the hospital’s hotline, or a request for an appointment through email. The payment method is online.

The guideline also specified that, aside from a mobile phone or gadget, the patient will need a Zoom account for the video call.

MMC email address: [email protected]

MMC hotline: 8888-8999 local 2189 or 2832

Who are eligible to practice teleconsultation or telemedicine?

The Philippine Medical Association’s guideline states that a physician with a valid license from the Philippine Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) can practice teleconsultation or telemedicine with patients residing in the Philippines.

Proficiency in digital communication skills, clinical acumen, and knowledge of technology or equipment used are the minimum prerequisites for practicing teleconsultation or telemedicine while adhering to ethical practice.