Biomedical informatics, medical informatics—these are two of the early names given to what we now call ‘health informatics.’ Although this concept of integrating technology into the hospital’s or clinic’s practices has been around since the nineties, many Filipino healthcare professionals are still struggling to grasp its full potential up to now.

In his 2006 article, Dr Alvin B Marcelo, FPCS, lists down the factors that hinder the growth of health informatics in the country, and these include 1) the lack of health human resources interested in the field, 2) network infrastructure or IT human resource, and the health stakeholders’ lack of acceptance for the concept.

To get an updated point of view of health informatics and its current state in the country, MIMS caught up with Renerio Cordova, health informatics specialist and co-founder of MyLabs PH.

Health informatics is still a concept that Filipino doctors have yet to understand. Can you give your own definition of health informatics?

Health Informatics is the use of technology to improve healthcare. This ranges from software to equipment integration such as a Laboratory Information System, to Video Conferencing methods for telemedicine.

What are the key roles that health informatics play in the modern healthcare industry?

Health Informatics plays many parts in the modern healthcare industry. A cloud-based health information system can improve management of data by creating a system that is compatible with all parts of the system such as an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) System. It also deals with the storage aspect, such as cloud-based servers like Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services, which are HIPAA-compliant. User Interface problems can also be solved as systems are best designed with the cooperation of the end users. Health Informatics is more than just the system and the technology, it is also very much involved in the diffusion of innovation. A good health information system will ensure that the end-users would be able to utilize the system and increase their productivity.

In terms of resources and methods used in health informatics, how far behind/ahead would you say the Philippines healthcare industry is? What are the technology currently being used, and which ones are missing?

In terms of technology, I believe that we are not behind. We are following the same standards (HL7) as other countries. We have the latest medical equipment, some even more advanced than other ASEAN countries.

What we are behind in is the implementation. Less than five percent of the hospitals in the Philippines are at Stage 1 or Stage 2 of HIMSS Analytics Electronic Medical Record Adoption Model (EMRAM). The remaining ninety-five percent are at Stage 0. We are lagging in terms of legislation as well. There is still no "big push" from the government to start adapting Electronic Medical Records and Health Information System. Though I believe that the Department of Health is already starting that.

When it comes to manpower, do we have enough qualified health informatics professionals in the Philippines?

Health informatics is fairly new so we cannot expect a lot of health professionals to be that knowledgeable, or even interested. There are already quite a few health start-ups, but the co-founders, or people in them are from the same circle of health informatics professionals. Again, this stems from the degree of adoption of health informatics. Since it is still an emerging practice, it will not be easy to have people invest their time and effort in it.

With the many healthcare threats that the Philippines is currently facing (Japanese encephalitis, avian flu, HIV epidemic), in what way can health informatics help the country prepare for such infectious diseases?

Health Informatics is very useful in surveillance, if done right. When the time comes that most of health facilities have working information systems, and all their data can be aggregated and analysed in a timely manner, we can predict outbreaks even before they happen.

For example, integrated laboratory information systems can show a large number of low platelet blood tests for a certain area. This could warn authorities beforehand of a possible dengue outbreak. MIMS

About MyLabsPH

MyLabs is an Online Laboratory Results Management system that allows patients, doctors and other health professionals to view, manage and store laboratory results online. It allows the access of laboratory result information from anywhere through the internet, thus giving the patient more control over his/her data, and the doctor easier access.