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May 14, 2020

Connecting Families Through Tele-Kumusta

Connecting Families Through Tele-Kumusta Tele-Kumusta is formed through the collaboration of PGH and UP Manila and Diliman campuses. (Photo from University of the Philippines – College of Medicine/Facebook)

Living in isolation during a crisis is immensely challenging. While staying home and juggling multiple tasks, we also worry about our future and the well-being of our loved ones, who may be at-risk or are frontline workers.

On one end, COVID-19 patients are also isolated, but inside medical facilities where they have limited social contact with anybody — even the health workers. While they think about life outside the four walls of the hospital, they have to battle an insidious disease that has no known cure or vaccine yet.

While fighting a disease we barely know is a challenge by itself, imagine battling it with little to no support system.

Knowing that isolation can have an effect on a patient’s physical and mental health, the
University of the Philippines (UP) – College of Medicine Surgical Innovations and Biotechnology Laboratory (SIBOL) has developed telepresence computers, which are now deployed at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) COVID-19 areas.

Called Tele-Kumusta or E-Dalaw, the communication service allows COVID-19 patients with mild to moderate symptoms to see their loved ones via video call for free.

“We are aware of the isolation that a patient feels once admitted and the anxiety that their relatives experience. Tele-Kumusta is PGH’s way to maintain a visual connection between patients and their loved ones. PGH believes that this is important in the overall well-being of our patients,” PGH spokesperson Jonas Del Rosario told The Philippine STAR.

 Unlike the simple exchange of text messages, seeing someone face-to-face somehow gives families a flicker of hope amid trials. Since the project rolled out, the PGH has seen sparks of joy whenever patients reunite with their families.

"Ang mga pasyenteng may COVID-19 ay hindi lamang numero o statistics, sila po ay taong may nagmamahal at may minamahal na pamilya. Puwede na po nila makausap ang mga mahal nila sa buhay habang nasa ospital," UP College of Medicine wrote on Facebook.

Collaboration produces Tele-Kumusta

Tele-Kumusta is a collaboration between PGH and UP Manila and Diliman campuses. The team of doctors Homer Co, Nathaniel Orizalla Jr., and Edward Wang in Manila spearheaded the project while professors Pros Naval and Luis Sison’s team from the Diliman campus set up the terminal’s software. 

Using repurposed rolling cart-tables, computers donated by Xavier School batch 1975, and Wi-Fi from Smart, nurses in COVID-19 wards roll up the E-Bisita carts near the patients. Through a remote sharing system, social workers stationed outside the wards monitor the calls to see the needs of patients and their families.

Del Rosario also noted that the innovation has been helping social workers fulfill their duties without the risk of infection from close physical contact.

“The technology allows a form of personal, intimate communication between COVID-19 patients, their loved ones and our social workers to take place without risk of infection from close physical contact,” he said.

Through the innovation, patients and their families may now feel that they are not alone in this fight. Health and social workers, as well as private entities, go beyond the usual to help patients win the fight against the disease.

Believing that connectivity is essential, Smart provides fast, free and reliable 24/7 Wi-Fi to government agencies, local government units and COVID-19 facilities and hospitals, including PGH.

Through these partnerships, the wireless service provider ensures that Filipinos, no matter where they are, are continuously connected with their family and friends, especially during these difficult times.

To learn more, visit www.smart.com.ph or check out #StaySmart.

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