Philippines – Mission Leapfrog


Addressing gaps in the healthcare ecosystem that prevent access to care for all Filipinos

COVID-19 control in Tacloban

The implementation of the Universal Healthcare law in 2019 accelerated the healthcare reform in the country. With its implementation, key opportunities and challenges were identified in revitalizing the healthcare system. However, the COVID-19 pandemic brought to light additional gaps as more healthcare resources were shifted to address COVID cases. While Universal Health Care aims to achieve equitable access to quality and affordable health care services for all Filipinos, access to basic primary healthcare services in remote communities remains to be a challenge.

Tacloban City was selected for the Mission Leapfrog experiment due to their strong healthcare advocacy within the community. Current healthcare needs in Tacloban are also reflective of the rest of the Philippines. Following the destruction from Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, Tacloban City has worked to improve their healthcare resources and increase funds for their healthcare infrastructure with a particular focus on their medical teaching hospital. The community’s ability to influence national policy and engage other areas of the country is an important asset for our broader Mission Leapfrog goals.

Through our Mission Leapfrog experiments, we aim at empowering more Filipinos and increasing access for people in underserved areas to primary healthcare services in order to improve the health outcomes of the community. We will start with a small experiment. Take the learnings. Then identify and focus on a specific disease area (e.g. women & children’s health or other) for further exploration.

The core of the Mission Leapfrog experiment involves an artificial intelligence (AI)-based disease risk assessment tool which allows people to monitor and take care of their own health conditions proactively at home or anywhere. Based on their disease risk level, they will have guided access to medical information or be directed to tele-consultation services (by nurses or physicians) or have self testing at home or at designated primary care sites. This brings medical services close to patients and reduces the burden to hospital services. If successful, the change in healthcare concept and behaviour will lead to a paradigm shift.

After initial discussions, it became clear that COVID pandemic control is the top burning healthcare concern. In order to have a quick start of the experiment and thus validate the hypothesis and proof of concept, the MLP team has decided to initially focus on addressing issues related to COVID.

For the experiment, we will focus on patients’ need to have access to COVID risk assessment, tests and confirmation, monitoring of their disease status while under isolation or quarantine as well as access to critical information such as tele-consultation contacts, locations of GPs, pharmacies and educational materials. We will work with our stakeholders to secure innovative tools and establish integrated healthcare solutions in primary healthcare settings.

If we can achieve equitable access to advanced healthcare for COVID in Tacloban, we have the potential to ensure the sustainability of healthcare ecosystems in the surrounding areas, which will then help to achieve an efficient and resilient universal health system and improve the economic prosperity of families in Tacloban and across the Philippines.

What’s next?

With the support from a Congressman who represents Leyte province where Tacloban city is located, we are exploring with Tacloban City Health authority and Department of Education an experiment to facilitate the re-opening of schools. The plan is to empower people for self-testing and offer a COVID risk assessment tool together with a Rapid COVID Antigen test to teachers and children of selected schools for proactive testing. The goal is to ensure teachers and children who are contracted with COVID can be identified early and receive relevant healthcare support. With teachers who are assured of COVID free status, it will be the first step to facilitate the safe reopening of schools, disarm parents to go to work and hence support the reopening economy.

Note : This is under serious discussion with local stakeholders and there might be hurdles that force us to change the target group. Private sectors (e.g. police department, banks, grocery chain stores, factories etc) will be the back up plan.

Keep watching this space for more.

A COVID Patient Story

  • The Delos Santos’*

    The Delos Santos’ are an extended family that lives in a province a few hours from Manila. During COVID, they observed social distancing and minimized exposure to crowds by staying at home. They were an extended family. One day, the grandmother and grandfather of the family experienced a cough. In the days following, the mother and father of the family debated about whether or not it was COVID, wondered whether or not they should bring them to the hospital to get tested and worried if they would contract COVID if they visited the doctor. Meanwhile, symptoms got worse for the aunt of the family, so she was taken to the hospital and tested positive for COVID.
  • Eventually, she needed to be put into the ICU and five other members of the family were also found positive. With only two working adults remaining COVID-free, they had to tackle increasing responsibilities of caring for the grandmother at home, grandfather who had mild symptoms, but still required daily care and the asymptomatic children. As the situation evolved, so did the increase of questions and struggles with healthcare expenses, health literacy, health system navigation and family support. This was just one family’s story, but it is reflective of the experiences of many other families across the Philippines affected by COVID. *name changed for privacy reason

Other Regions

  • Thailand

    The goal of the Mission Leapfrog experiment in Thailand is to engage with ecosystem partners to improve health outcomes for the population of elderly women in urban environments that are at high risk for cancer but experience significant isolation and hardships. Our ambition is to harness technology to share clinical information across a network using telemedicine, so we can deliver better healthcare for this population. This ability to bring treatment options from the hospitals to the communities where these women live would be a leapfrog in impact for these women and healthcare delivery in the country overall.

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