Healthcare workers at Dawis Community Primary Hospital in Bayawan City watch a demonstration on how to use the RxBox.

Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental (January 26) – Luz Sikatuna Community Primary Hospital, Pacuan Community Primary Hospital, Nabilog Community Primary Hospital, Inapoy Community Primary Hospital and Dawis Community Primary Hospital – you know what’s common among them?

All are located in the geographically and economically disadvantaged areas (GEDA) of Negros Oriental. It is difficult to access quality healthcare normally available in the capital city of Dumaguete.

Traveling from these areas to Dumaguete City is a challenge. If you are a resident in any of these areas, it will take you hours before you reach the capital city. Traveling during inclement weather is more challenging than usual. The cost of transportation from these areas to the capital city is expensive as well.

To put things into perspective, let’s say you live in Barangay Inapoy in Mabinay. From Inapoy to Dumaguete City is 103 km. With a private vehicle, it takes about 3 hours to reach the capital. If you take the habal-abal from Inapoy to Mabinay bus terminal, you have to pay P200.00. Bus fare from Mabinay to Dumaguete City is P170.00. Add in the same fare you have to will have to pay on the way back and you will pay a total of P740.00 for the fare alone.

And that’s just the fare. You will have to factor in the cost of meals and snacks incurred while traveling.

If you plan to go to a public hospital, you’ll have to brave the crowds waiting in line to get a priority number for your doctor’s appointment. If you are lucky, you can get a reservation. If you’re unlucky, you’ll have to wait the following day to see a doctor.

On the other hand, if you go to a private hospital, almost the same scenario awaits — long lines of people with priority numbers waiting for doctor’s appointment. However, the difference is in cost. Public hospitals offer minimal fees, but medical services in private hospitals are another matter. The minimum consultation fee is P700.00. Physicians usually request that you undergo a laboratory analysis, which is another layer of expense.

The solution?

Enter RxBox.

It is a multi-component program (biomedical equipment, electronic medical record system and telemedicine training) designed to improve access to critical health care services in isolated and disadvantaged communities across the country. It is one of the efforts of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) under the “Smarter Philippines” thrust. It is also an ICT (information and communication technology) innovation developed to support the health department’s call for Universal Health Care.

The RxBox can collect medical signals through its built-in medical sensors, store data in an electronic medical record (Community Health Information Tracking System – CHITS), and transmit health information to clinical experts at the Philippine General Hospital over the internet.

It also facilitates the improvement of local referral systems by facilitating telephone consultations (audio-video conferencing) under the National Telehealth Service Program.

Thanks to medical sensors in the box, RxBox can reduce the total cost of healthcare by enabling healthcare workers to diagnose, monitor and treat patients within rural healthcare facilities.

It has been almost a week since DOST Negros Oriental turned over one unit of RxBox to each of the four community hospitals here in the province. Some doctors have already felt its positive impact in the delivery of health services to their clients.

“Since we’ve received the RxBox, it has already helped us to a great extent. Being one of the hospitals in GEDA, the RxBox has provided us more than enough data for our patients. We usually see these kinds of equipment in private and some public hospitals…now our primary community hospital is equipped with such amazing tool. We are able to promptly diagnose life threatening cases and do the necessary and immediate interventions thereby saving more lives in far flung areas…,” said Dr. Wildredo Mata, Jr. of Luz-Sikatuna Community Provincial Hospital in Guihulngan City.

Dr. Mata added that patients of their facility have been very thankful for the telehealth device since they no longer have to go and spend for a bus trip just to have these kinds of diagnostics.

The same sentiment is echoed by Dr. Ercie B. Laguerder of Dawis Community Primary Hospital in Bayawan City.

“Before RxBox was given to us, ECG and CTG machines are not readily available in our facility. Now it has helped us diagnose diseases and conditions more quickly, and thus proper management is made without delay. Adding to that, it also keeps records of vital signs and previous ECG and CTG readings that we can review in case the patient comes back… I think that is quite advantageous compared to the traditional ECG and CTG machines”, said Dr. Laguerder.

She added that most patients were amazed by the device, since they haven’t had any experience with that kind of device before.

As of this writing, Negros Oriental has 24 RxBox locations. Fifteen are rural health centers, 4 are urban health centers and 4 are community primary hospitals which recently received the telemedicine units.

DOST Negros Oriental S&T Director Atty. Gilbert R. Arbon envisions to provide quality health care to the rural and remote areas in the province.

“Our goal is simple: to help make health services more accessible to people in far-flung areas, especially pregnant women, children, and the elderly. Through telemedicine, we can do that,” stressed Atty. Arbon. (By Engr. Reinhold Jek Y. Abing, Science Research Specialist II/Information Officer-designate, DOST Negros Oriental) (edited 1.27.2023) 

 

Healthcare workers of Dawis CPH in Bayawan City proudly pose for a photo op with their RxBox unit. Also present in the picture of members of the DOST 7 RxBox team.

 

Healthcare workers of Nabilog CPH in Tayasan proudly pose for a photo op with their RxBox unit. Also present in the picture of members of the DOST 7 RxBox team.

 

In this file photo, healthcare workers in Nabilog CPH in Tayasan, Negros Oriental can be seen using the RxBox to check the fetal health of its patient.

 

In this file photo, DOST Negros Oriental PSTD Atty. Arbon (left) turns over the RxBox device to Dr. Leonard Araneta of RHU Zamboanguita.