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Philippine Government to Enhance Development of MedTech

A fundamental component of that transformation has been a rapid rate of technological change that has led to the insertion into the healthcare system of a range of new diagnostic and treatment technologies which had no real precedent in the pre-war years was a significant factor in this shift. The acknowledgement that medical technology is a key aspect both for quality and health care costs has reinvigorated interest in factors that shape technical change and innovation in medicine.

The adoption of healthcare technology over the years has led to better patient diagnosis and treatment. Healthcare is undoubtedly the most significant of all areas that benefit from technology adoption. As a result, the quality of life increased over time and saved countless lives.

With this, the Philippines government will push ahead to develop medical technology for the country, citing the demand amid the pandemic, an official from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

The urgent need for this has never been more apparent than at the onset of the Covid-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic when demands for personal protective equipment (PPEs) and test kits globally greatly affected their prices and our procuring power, and consequently our response.

– DOST Undersecretary

The Undersecretary highlighted that regional and local vendors are increasingly shifting to cheaper equipment. The local market for medical devices, she noted, is strongly dependent upon imports, with over 100% imported medical equipment and approximately 50% imported medical devices.

“Local production is limited to mostly prototypes, and accessories and spare parts. In addition, continuous population growth, hospital expansion and upgrading, as well as increasing healthcare spending are driving higher demands in services,” she then remarked.

DOST includes its biomedical health devices programme as one of its objectives in addressing this issue. This would meet the need for innovative research and for the local development, for the support and therapeutic treatment of reliable, safe and inexpensive biomedical equipment. The curriculum would also enhance biomedical engineering skills and competence and adjacent fields.

The undersecretary has also noted that initiatives on hospital equipment and rehabilitation devices have begun in the domain of research (in this programme). The scope of R&D areas extended with the continuing development of possible R&D (research and development) partners. The specific R&D fields supported this year include less invasive surgical devices; post-operative or rehabilitative medicine; emergency medical response devices; improved primary healthcare provision; and disease research simulation platforms.

Current R&D programmes, including capacity building activities for researchers, Regulatory agency partners, technology Transfer support and commercialisation have been given approximately PHP112 million. Among the projects that the DOST supported under this programme are the “Ginhawa” (relief) ventilator; “Agapay”, a robotic exoskeleton for upper extremity rehabilitation; and “Insole”, a pressure sensing system for preventing foot ulcers.

The official said these projects were conducted in cooperation between the research engineering team and medical professionals. During the design phase, end-users or medical staff offered feedback on existing requirements, while a problem solution standard was produced by the engineering team. There are opportunities as Biomedical Engineering increases its capability.

“There is increasing investment in R&D, as DOST aims to support more local innovations. With increasing investment comes the expansion of the scope of research areas, to keep up with technology developments globally such as the focus on distributed healthcare, use of artificial intelligence, and tissue engineering, among others,” she said. Establishing specialised research centres and more technology business incubation centres are vital in commercialising new technologies with high market potential.

The DOST recognises that the success of the Bio-Medical Engineering programme, which can help in the clinical evaluation and the commercialisation of goods, also depends on creating collaborations among technology promoters, including academic, health and production enterprises.

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