The Philippines to issue digital vaccination certs for overseas workers from September

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The Philippines is set to issue digital COVID-19 vaccination certificates from September.

In a statement, the Department of Information Communications Technology (DICT) said that the mobile web-based platform – VaxCertPH – is already “up running” is “ready to go live nationwide” after local government operators complete their training. 

According to a news report, overseas Filipino workers in Metro Manila, the nation’s capital region, will be first issued with the certificates next month. The government eyes full implementation nationwide by October. 

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

Developed by the DICT for the Philippine Health Department, the VaxCertPH is an online portal for the issuance of vaccination certificates, which are said to be compliant with the technical specifications set by the World Health Organization for vaccination certificates. 

The system relies on data submitted by local governments through the Vaccine Information Management System (VIMS). Local governments are now submitting their respective lists of vaccinated individuals through the Vaccine Administration System of the DICT (D-VAS) ahead of the formal launch of the digital certificates. The D-VAS is part of the VIMS that enables automated computerised processing of vaccination administration. It also contains the directories of vaccine recipients.

The said list is regarded as the “official primary record of vaccination events” in the Philippines the “primary authoritative source of information” for the national vaccine passport or certificate. 

The DICT is also training operators of the system from various local governments on proper data entry to reduce instances of data-related errors. 

THE LARGER TREND

At present, local governments in the Philippines are issuing physical cards to their vaccinated citizens. In early August, the Foreign Affairs Department announced that Hong Kong will not recognise vaccination cards issued to overseas Filipino workers as these do not come from a single source. The country is home to many domestic helpers employed in Hong Kong. 

To allow the entry of overseas workers, Hong Kong will accept those bearers of the WHO international certificate of vaccination or the “yellow card” issued by the Philippines’ Bureau of Quarantine. 

ON THE RECORD

“Our goal is to simplify everything by using digital technologies – easier vaccination procedures, even simpler certification of fully vaccinated individuals,” DICT Secretary Gregorio B. Honasan II said.

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Better Medical taps PracticeHub for practice management system

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South Australia-based general practice clinics operator Better Medical has engaged online practice management platform provider PracticeHub by Avant to help enhance its clinical corporate governance.

WHY IT MATTERS

Established in 2015, Better Medical runs 85 clinics across South Australia, Queensland, Tasmania Victoria. It employs over 600 general practitioners, seven doctor-owners more than 900 support staff.

Dr Colin Goodson, chief medical officer at Better Medical, said in a statement that PracticeHub was chosen for its ability to centralise management oversight of operations. “Its customisable features will provide a framework to ensure quality, consistency, accountability risk mitigation in practice management across our group,” he added.

Another reason was the ability to integrate the PracticeHub platform with Better Medical’s requirement for a cloud-based quality management system from Brisbane-based healthcare software company Cgov. The integration enables reporting of work health safety, clinical, risk incidents, as well as patient complaints, which the healthcare provider can configure to their specific needs.

“Having a solid governance framework will allow our team to provide seamless management services to our GP clinics, so they can focus on improving the health of the communities they serve,” Dr Goodson stated.

THE LARGER TREND

This year, PracticeHub introduced new applications as part of its solution offerings. One of these is an app that alerts healthcare organisations to lapses in their practitioners’ registrations with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. Launched in May, the Ahpra Alerts app was developed to help reduce the administration burden for practice staff compliance risks that may arise from registration lapses.

The company has also introduced an app that manages doctors’ annual certificates of insurance, helping minimise the medico-legal risks that come with manually collecting those certificates.

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Around 1 million people potentially affected by suspected breach in Indonesia’s COVID-19 app: report

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An independent report has revealed a data breach in the Indonesian government’s COVID-19 test-and-trace mobile app, potentially affecting records of around 1.3 million users. 

Launched this year, the electronic Health Alert Card (eHAC) is a mandatory requirement for travellers entering Indonesia. It stores users’ health status, personal data, contact details, COVID-19 test results, among others.

The leak was detected by researchers from encryption provider vpnMentor who are conducting a web mapping activity to spot unsecured data stores containing sensitive information.

FINDINGS

In a report, vpnMentor said the developers were using an unsecured database to store around 2 gigabytes of records from millions of app users. According to the researchers, they were able to access via browser the Elasticsearch database, which is usually not designed for URL use.

“These records didn’t just expose the users. This data leak exposed the entire infrastructure around eHAC, including private records from hospitals Indonesian officials using the app,” the report read.

Once the researchers were able to detect the exposed database, they first contacted the health ministry the Indonesia Computer Emergency Response Team, but to no avail. They only received a response from the National Cyber Encryption Agency who have taken down the server on 24 August. 

WHY IT MATTERS

The report found that the app’s developer failed to put up “adequate” data privacy protocols, leaving the data of over a million users exposed on an open server. Experts from vpnMentor said the unprotected data can be used for fraud, phishing or hacking disinformation campaigns. 

Ultimately, they advised the developers to set up some basic security measures, such as server security implementation of proper access rules.

According to a Reuters news report, the Indonesian government is already investigating the incident, which occurred in the earlier version of the eHAC app that has not been in use since July. 

Anas Ma’ruf, a health ministry official, said the previous version is different from the eHAC system that is now part of the Peduli Lindungi (Care Protect) app, which is being used for contact tracing purposes. 

Still, the health ministry has advised citizens to delete the old app on their mobile devices.

Without giving further details, the authorities are suspecting that the data breach might have happened on a third party’s system.

THE LARGER TREND

In May, social security data of around 100,000 Indonesians were found being sold through a hacking forum. The data were supposedly leaked from state insurer BPJS Kesehatan included information on families payment status. 

Just weeks ago, a private eye clinic in Singapore disclosed that it was hit by a ransomware attack earlier in the month. The incident on Eye & Retina Surgeon’s clinic server management system affected records of over 73,000 patients.

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How telepsychiatry is helping chip away at the mental health crisis

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It is no secret that the United States is experiencing a mental health crisis due to aggravated conditions from the pandemic exacerbated by of a shortage of mental health professionals, especially psychiatrists.

As a result, especially because of the effects requirements of the pandemic, telepsychiatry has been on the rise. In fact, behavioral healthcare has even received special exemptions from prepandemic reimbursement rules from the CMS private payers.

Dr. James R. Varrell is chief medical officer founder of Array Behavioral Care a practicing psychiatrist. Varrell was among the first to perform telepsychiatry – back in 1999, before the Internet, via phone lines. This was through a state-sponsored grant in New Jersey. Array Behavioral Care has been at telepsychiatry for 20 years, with a large base of virtual psychiatrists.

In an interview with Healthcare IT News, Varrell talks about how healthcare organizations are coping via telepsychiatry with the mental health crisis, how tele-psychiatry has changed over the last two decades and the requisite bedside manner for tele-psychiatry.

Q. How are hospitals primary care physicians expanding access to mental health addressing the burden they’re experiencing from the mental health crisis through telepsychiatry?

A. We have to start with why hospitals PCPs are even needing to exptheir behavioral health capabilities access in the first place. As many as 80% of individuals seeking mental health treatment in the U.S. visit either in an emergency room or their primary care provider, rather than a psychiatrist.

At this intersection of our country’s mental health crisis the growing demfor treatment is a shrinking supply of behavioral health professionals. It’s difficult for people seeking a psychiatrist, psychologist or therapist to find the right licensed professional, covered by insurance, with availability.

Kaiser Family Foundation data from January 2021 showed that behavioral health clinicians can only meet 27% of the mental health needs across the U.S. So, when individuals’ symptoms worsen, which happened across the board during the pandemic, they go to the professionals they know can get to – EDs PCPs.

There’s a shortage of medical professionals nationwide, but in no other specialty are the gaps greater than in behavioral health. Fortunately, behavioral health is one of the specialties most easily translated to telehealth.

PCPs EDs feeling the strain on time resources from the growing need for behavioral care are increasingly turning to telepsychiatry to improve access to specialty care for these patients. 

Through telepsychiatry, EDs can bring in a professional within minutes or hours (instead of the days it takes on average) to evaluate a patient, determine appropriate disposition, initiate stabilizing treatment if appropriate set up a discharge plan.

PCPs integrating telepsychiatry into their practices can work more upstream with behavioral health clinicians to identify patients who need help develop proactive treatment plans targeted toward remission, not just reduction, of symptoms.

Improving access to behavioral healthcare through telehealth allows hospitals PCPs to free up their staff resources to focus on physical ailments, while still connecting the dots for patients with behavioral care needs. 

Establishing a relationship with telepsychiatry clinicians can empower providers across the care continuum with the support information they need to fully manage the health of their patient population.

Q. How has virtual mental health care changed over the past 20 years?

A. There are two main things that have advanced tele-behavioral health over the years: the technology widespread adoption.

Back in 1999, I was fortunate enough to perform what we know to be the first involuntary commitment via video in the U.S. I connected to a hospital screen via phone lines. And at that time, video telehealth was unheard of, a little scary, there was very little research on it.

Since then, evidence has proven the effectiveness of virtual care in behavioral health, now it’s become quite popular – quite feasible. Advanced technology, along with a strong cell phone signal or WiFi connection, have helped level the playing field for individuals to access – clinicians to securely deliver – tele-behavioral care. With the appropriate state license, now a psychiatrist in California can meet with a patient in rural Iowa.

Over the years, we’ve seen more more companies spring up with virtual mental health services. But the key thing we see being lost is psychiatry offerings. While patients don’t always have acute challenges or need medication, it’s important that the right mix of professionals are available to serve a variety of needs.

Q. What is the “webside manner” (as opposed to bedside manner) that clinicians need to provide mental healthcare online?

A. Though the in-person behavioral care skills still apply online, clinicians providing tele-behavioral care need to be more nimble proactive in a virtual setting. They first must be mindful of the surroundings individuals are in ensure that they can speak safely freely.

That may mean asking questions at the top of a session that we wouldn’t normally ask in person or suggesting a patient go for a walk or move to a more private place if they’re discussing sensitive information. Clinicians should also consider establishing a code-word with patients that can signal if someone enters their space.

There also are technology factors to consider, such as a lag in video or audio translation through screens. Clinicians must be more attentive to some of the verbal or nonverbal cues that can be a little more challenging to pick up on in a virtual setting.

For example, they may need to pause for an extra second or two between when it seems like a patient is done speaking instead of jumping in immediately to comment. And clinicians have to be mindful of their own space, lighting, camera angles more to be sure they are creating a comforting, professional, safe confidential environment.

Providing behavioral care online also opens more opportunities for personal connection building rapport. Clinicians can meet pets or family members at home who they wouldn’t have met at in-person appointments, which often can provide important context to their treatment.

Clinicians also can scan the environments to see books on shelves, posters in rooms other personal elements to talk about, which can help them find even more common ground with their patients.

Q. How do caregivers create the right environment for providing virtual care, for clinicians patients alike?

A. For the average person, among the biggest barriers to care are affordability accessibility. People seeking mental healthcare should not have to wait weeks for an appointment or pay out of pocket for services.

So practices or companies offering virtual behavioral care must prioritize ensuring their behavioral care services can be covered by patients’ insurance as well as ensuring that their clinician availability is always one step ahead of demand. Practices or companies should also prepare clinicians with best practices to shorten the learning curve for transitioning their care to the virtual world.

For example, some providers deliver courses to show tele-psychiatry presenters – physicians, nurses, social workers or counselors – how to successfully facilitate a tele-psychiatry session. Providers also share resources with talking points to help clinicians explain to patients what they can expect out of their virtual appointment, the effectiveness of online therapy more.

Once an individual is with a provider, the most important thing is stable, consistent care with a clinician they trust. Behavioral care outcomes often are driven by long-term relationships. And in order to foster those, practices or companies offering virtual care have to also care for their clinicians so they’ll stick around build those deep, lasting patient relationships.

Clinicians need want an environment in which they are respected, can grow, socialize, mentor be mentored, have the freedom to practice how when they’d like, truly serve their patients.

Clinicians are at the core of any virtual care service, when we take better care of them, we’ll attract retain people who can take better care of patients. With a human-centered, relationship-focused approach to telepsychiatry online behavioral health, we’ll chip away at the mental health crisis work toward a happier, healthier population.

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
Email the writer: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.



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