VSee successfully concluded its 5th medical mission in the Philippines. This mission was held over three days, January 4 to 6 in the Taytay municipality of the Metro Manila capital region. Together with its Local Government Unit (LGU) and 25 volunteers, our team served 322 patients from the underserved communities of Taytay with telehealth and in-person doctor visits. Check out a 45-second highlights video from our trip below.
Telehealth for Creating Sustainable Healthcare Access
Our medical mission goal is to create and help operate 10,000 VSee Clinics across the Philippines by 2026 – to demonstrate a sustainable business model that can provide low cost and high quality healthcare to the disadvantaged.
We believe with the right partnerships and VSee’s telehealth technology we can make an impact on the daily health of millions of disadvantaged Filipinos.
Who We Served – Patient Demographics
Children between 1 to 12 years made up the largest age group with 96 patients (31.4%):
There was a total of 59 male and 158 female patients. A majority of the women were housewives who brought young children with them.
Most Common Health Issues
Respiratory problems were the most common issue across all age groups. These are typically untreated coughs and colds that have become worse infections such as bronchiolitis and pneumonia.
Hypertension and poor eyesight were the most common issues for the older age group, with some patients disclosing that they hadn’t visited an eye doctor for more than a decade.
Other Socioeconomic Factors
To help us better understand the healthcare access issues of underserved communities in the Philippines, we administered an onsite patient survey* about other factors in their lives. We learned:
- Most patients hadn’t seen a doctor or a dentist anywhere from 6 months to 10 years.
- The closest medical facility was anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours away from patients’ residences. Additionally, the transportation cost to and from the nearest hospital could be as much as ₱500 ($9.17), a big expense for below-the-minimum wage earners.
- Majority (43%) of patients’ highest educational attainment is high school graduate or undergraduate.
- Majority of the patients are housewives and casual workers (e.g. construction workers, delivery men, store attendants, balut and vegetable vendors, etc.) Some lost their day’s wages (₱100-₱8,000 or USD 2-200) by choosing to come to the free clinic.
*Survey included questions about history of healthcare access, educational attainment, occupation, household situation (e.g. how many people live in their household, how they get clean drinking water, how many people sleep in the same room as them, how they cook etc.), and if they own laptops/computers and cellphone..
Setting Up and Running the Telehealth Free Clinic
Telehealth is more than just setting up a video call. These are the steps we took to prepare for the Taytay Free Clinic:
Phase 1 – Logistics
- Find an LGU partner. An ideal LGU partner for the project is able to assist with the checklist below. We interviewed half a dozen LGUs in our network and ultimately decided to partner with Taytay Municipal Councilor Tobit Cruz who provided the support we needed to run a successful clinic.
- Activate at least 3 local Filipino doctors at least 2 local healthcare workers to go into the community ahead of time to identify and refer appropriate patients for the clinic.
- Provide 1 local project manager
- Recommend and help provision the clinic venue – including tables, chairs, electrical cords and power strips. Ideal venues include schools, barangay health centers, or other medical facilities
- Provide meals and refreshments for the doctors and volunteers
- Liaison with donors and sponsors to provide free medications and grocery items for the patients
- Identify a community in need: Our partner identified the area where the free clinic will be needed most. Damayan Floodway was chosen as the beneficiary due to the lack of access to health facilities. While there are nearby health centers, their resources are not enough to meet the community’s needs.
- Identify specific patient needs in that community: Zone leaders were assigned by the LGU to collect health complaints around the barangay. This helped us identify which physicians to tap and which medicines to prepare. We uploaded the data into VSee platform EMR for physicians to access during the Free Clinic days.
- Prepare for internet coverage & other system requirements: To support telehealth consultations on the VSee platform, we recommend that the area’s upload and download speed be at least 500 kbps. Other software and hardware requirements are found in this guide.
Phase 2 – Staff and Sponsors
- Volunteers: We were able to run the clinic with 25 volunteers including students, barangay health workers and other zone leaders from the LGU. Volunteers were assigned to various stations to assist the physicians and scribes, and to answer patients’ questions.
- Physicians – Onsite physicians were provided by the LGU health office. VSee also employed the assistance of four remote physicians from our in-house telehealth physician staffing company This American Doc (TAD).
- Sponsors – We contacted 23 companies for in-kind and monetary donations and medication. Generika, one of VSee’s clients, donated 90,000 pcs of Vitamin C and other over-the-counter medicines. Please note that pharmaceutical companies usually ask for a deed of donation from the LGU before they donate medicines.
Phase 3 – Training
Two months prior to the event, we began holding a bi-weekly meeting with volunteers to prepare for the event. Aside from the workflow and station assignments, volunteers also received onsite and remote training on how to use the available medical devices and to navigate the VSee telehealth system.
Phase 4 – Day-of the Free Clinic
- Station Setup – Each day of the medical mission, we set up 6 stations to keep the process organized. The overall consultation usually took at least 15 minutes.
- Station 1: Registration. 3 to 4 persons to man the table to distribute registration stubs, check the patient list and usher patients to the waiting area.
- Station 2: Waiting area. 1 to 2 persons to man the area to answer questions and usher patients to the next station 3.
- Station 3: Vitals. Ideally 1 person per vitals device. We brought portable digital wellness devices take vitals readings, including digital blood pressure cuffs, no-touch thermometers, pulse oximeters, and digital weighing scales. In this case, we assigned 1 person per device for a total of 4 persons.
- Station 4: Data Entry & Check-in. 1 to 2 persons to enter patient health information into the VSee Clinic + EMR and check patients into the virtual waiting room queue. Both onsite and remote physicians are able to access the information prior to the visit begins.
- Station 5: Consultations. One volunteer is assigned for each provider.
For on-site physicians, we assigned Scribes to help with charting in the VSee EMR
For remote physicians, we assigned onsite medics to help perform physical exams with devices* and to assist patients with the video.
*VSee provided a telemedicine kit containing a set of medical streaming devices including stethoscope, general exam camera, iris scope, dermatoscope , ECG and ultrasound probe.
- Station 6: Medication and Prescriptions. Ideally, 1 to 2 persons can do this task. If available, we distribute the medicine to the patient. We also print out the prescription from VSee Clinic EMR for patients to purchase on their own. Since US physicians are not allowed to prescribe medication in the Philippines, we also have an onsite licensed Philippine physician who physically reviews and writes out any needed prescriptions.
- VSee Clinic Platform – We are a fully customizable, white-label, omni-channel telehealth platform with seamless team collaboration, data insights, and clinical workflows. During the medical mission, our platform provided:
- Medical Front Desk for checking-in patients, managing the queue, and communicating with remote physicians
- Integrated Handoff Process – VSee’s tagging feature facilitates smooth patient handoffs to the physicians. Customizable tags let the front-desk staff notify everyone (e.g. “ready for physician”) when all required stations are completed.
- EMR for documentation, charting, prescriptions, follow-up notes
- Video consultations with remote physicians
- Remote Physical Examinations – onsite medics streamed USB devices such as stethoscopes, otoscopes, ultrasound images etc. so remote physicians can receive images and see the patients simultaneously on their computers.
- Goodie bags and freebies. Our team also raised donations and provided every patient with 2kg of rice and additional food and nutrition items.
- Play area for kids. Given that kids may wait a while in the clinic – we created a play area for the kids while they or their patients are waiting.
Conclusion – Impacting Lives Through Telehealth
Over 5.6 million Filipinos are living in poverty, according to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) 2022 statistics. With inflation, more families are struggling just to make ends meet. Basic and preventative healthcare is even less accessible than before to these struggling families.
Through the VSee Manila Free Clinics*, our team seeks to remove these barriers to basic healthcare. With each Free Clinic medical mission we run, we learn more about what works and what doesn’t. We discover new ways to leverage telehealth for better healthcare. We meet the healthcare needs of more struggling families. We take another step forward in making healthcare as simple as the click of a button.