The legacy and the identity of a hospital, especially one as significant as The Medical City that’s among the largest healthcare providers in the country, can be determined by how it pushed all its buttons to respond to health crises and emergencies. With the right measures implemented at the right time, compounded with its long-standing mindset to service patients, The Medical City continues to lay its path on the right side of history.

During the conversation the Manila Bulletin recently had with Lawrence Sibayan, Assistant Vice President for Relations Management and Business Development of The Medical City, there were words he repeatedly mentioned, not for the mere sake of redundancy but for emphasis of what the medical institution has been all about the past year — reminding Filipinos to “do not delay healthcare.”

At the onslaught of the pandemic and as COVID-19 infections continue to surge, many people were reluctant to visit the hospitals either because they’re scared of acquiring the virus when they go outside or because they believe that the doctors and frontliners should focus on treating COVID-19 patients more. The Medical City addressed this as they successfully found the balance between accommodating COVID-19 patients and with other health concerns alike, with the launch of the “One Complex, Two Hospital Systems” in April 2020.

“One month since coronavirus was declared a pandemic, we did what we call the One Complex, Two Hospital Systems that provided COVID-19 patients isolated areas and separate safe access for non-COVID-19 patients who need consultation, diagnostic tests, intervention, and management of their diseases. This is among the first of the initiatives in the industry to dedicate exclusive pathways to each patient,” Sibayan said.

“We have fully dedicated resources for COVID and non-COVID patients, and this is to encourage people to still come to the hospital, and that option still remains,” he added.

The two-in-one hospital system of The Medical City is part of the institution’s COVID-19 adaptive strategies, which, according to Sibayan, mainly comprise efforts harping on digital transformation to boost further how it delivers healthcare to more patients.

“We have accelerated the adoption of digital services as we had to quickly pivot, moving service delivery online and remote. Our digital transformation did not just focus on telemedicine but also on electronic medical records and hospital information systems. The direction is to integrate all these systems to provide a seamless experience for our patients,” he said.

The Medical City has started addressing the need for “safer” hospital visits through its One Complex, Two Hospital Systems.

With digital transformation applied to the crucial parts of The Medical City’s day-to-day operations, the institution also effectively and efficiently caters to patients who don’t want to leave the comforts of their own homes but would wish to have access to the best healthcare option available.

Sibayan said that this is all about how when patients can’t come to the hospital, the hospital will go to them, and The Medical City did this by boosting its telemedicine and remote healthcare services.

The Medical City’s Home Care Program encompasses a wide range of health care services provided in the patient’s home with the purpose of maintaining the patient’s maximal level of function, health, and comfort.

Currently, The Medical City is among the hospitals in the country with the most extensive services available online. Through its website, patients may be connected to doctors of the hospital’s Diabetes Center, Breast Center, Cancer Center, Wellness and Aesthetics Institute, Center for Endoscopy and Physiologic Studies, Cardiac and Peripheral Vascular Center, Occupational Therapy, Movement Disorders Clinic, Lactation Center, DOTS Unit, Center for Snoring and Sleep Disorder, plus more medical services to be made available digitally in the future.

“As much as possible, we make all TMC services available on our online platform. We have mapped out the patient journey from searching a doctor, to appointment setting and payment, booking of diagnostics exams, and even medicine deliveries– these are all parts of the patients’ experience,” Sibayan said.

Brick-and-mortar clinics will no longer house hospital beds, as care will move into patients’ homes. Technology — and especially the internet of medical things — will empower consumers to take charge of their well-being.

“Delivering healthcare services is no longer confined to the brick-and-mortar hospital as care will move into patients’ homes. It’s equally important to be present online, and I think that this might be actually a step towards the first virtual hospital in the Philippines,” he added.

For its remote care services, meanwhile, The Medical City has its “On-Wheels” program that includes laboratory and cardiac tests, vaccine administration, physical therapy and rehabilitation for patients residing within Metro Manila and some parts of Rizal province.

“We have our nurses and medical allied associates going to patients’ homes for them not to miss their diagnostic, preventive and rehabilitative procedures. And it complements the telemedicine services of the hospital,” Sibayan said.

Asked about the reception of patients with The Medical City’s online and remote healthcare services, the executive said that they see promising results, a positive development especially given how some people used to be untrusting of telehealth pre-pandemic.

” Implementation of telemedicine has been delayed, pre-pandemic, for various reasons, including repeated and persistent resistance as some believe that these do not really provide the same level of service as face-to-face consultations,” Sibayan said.

“Timing really is everything. We had a very good response from our patients because the service is made available when and where they need it. A lot of our patients are thankful that these services [The Medical City’s online and remote healthcare solutions] are now available, and some of them didn’t actually think that it could be possible,” he added.

‘Learning by experience’

In the continuing fight against an unknown and evolving enemy, The Medical City counts its experiences as the agent of essential learnings and lessons. As the Philippines grapples yet another surge of COVID-19 infections with the more concerning Delta and other emerging variants, The Medical City can count on its controls, protocols, systems, and processes it has developed to attend to COVID-19 patients better.

“I’d say, compared to the first surge, we have already developed knowledge and experience of the COVID-19 response that we have acquired through our research and practice of infection prevention and control. We are now more prepared for surges,” Sibayan said.

He mentioned that as hospitals are again at full capacity, The Medical City continues utilizing its COVID Home Care service. Mounted in partnership with the Home Healthlink Innovations, Inc., it ensures that patients suspected of or positive for COVID-19 with mild and moderate symptoms are closely attended to and monitored by a physician as they recover their health at their homes.

“Because we have set up these services, we are now able to also address mild and low-moderate COVID-19 cases without the patients having to fight for beds in the hospital. We offer them an alternative solution through our COVID Home Care,” Sibayan furthered, adding that The Medical City also secured approval from the Food and Drug Administration to allow Remdesivir, an antiviral drug for COVID-19 patients initially only permitted to be given in hospitals, to be administered remotely.

The Medical City also initiated partnership with the Department of Health as well as local government units as they support the COVID-19-related efforts of authorities. For example, Sibayan shared that TMC formed an alliance with big hospitals in Metro Manila for a collective appeal to designate government hospitals as the COVID-19 hubs.

“I would say that The Medical City played its role in the public health emergency and the public health delivery itself,” he said.

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Source: Manila Bulletin (