AT A time when mobility is limited and some tasks can only be done through digital means, the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Health Service is performing its crucial role in an entirely different way.
Before the pandemic, the UST Health Service used the Thomasian Online Medical Services and Support (ThOMedSS) to provide medical support and patient services for students, faculty, and support staff.
Because of quarantine restrictions and fears of catching COVID-19 in health establishments, more members of the Thomasian community are expected to use the online service for consultations and prescription of medicines.
While ThOMedSS has gained praises for being efficient and responsive to the needs of patients, there are calls for an improved awareness of its features given that the pandemic is not likely to end anytime soon.
‘Very easy, smooth and fast’
Second-year political science student Ma. Shiela Mae Saavedra was among the students who have successfully accessed ThOMedSS. According to her, a nurse contacted her when she showed COVID-19 symptoms while she was answering the medical survey.
“I was offered medical services and was endorsed for monitoring and two-week quarantine,” she told The Flame.
Saavedra said the nurse who provided her medical assistance constantly checked on her. She also commended the health service staff and nurses for being patient and approachable.
Fenela Hazel Serrano, a senior occupational therapy student who also underwent close monitoring for the past three months due to her medical conditions said that the process was “very easy, smooth, and fast” and can be done in just a few clicks.
“The waiting time is less compared to the time spent prior to the pandemic although it may still depend on the patient load of the doctors. The prescriptions and medical certificates given by the doctors are easily accessible on the website,” Serrano said.
Saavedra suggested that the health service give proper orientation to students on how to use their services. She also encouraged her fellow Thomasians to try out the program.
“Aside from it being included in our miscellaneous fees, it is also important that we should check our health, especially these days,” Saavedra added.
Serrano said there should be more frequent monitoring of patients who are being observed. Patients should take the initiative to inform and update their respective medical attendants who are also monitoring other clients, she added.
“Hopefully, my fellow Thomasians will not hesitate to seek medical help in our health service, may it be in terms of mental or physical health, especially in these trying times,” the occupational therapy student said.
Serrano believes the health service provided by the university has improved under the virtual set-up because it is more convenient.
“Prior to the pandemic, it would take me several minutes up to hours lining up in every step of the process. At that time, the health staff were also somewhat intimidating, scary, and did not seem approachable,” she said.
Lack of awareness
Despite UST Health Service’s attempts to promote ThOMedSS, some students have not yet tried its services.
Journalism sophomore Ethan Christensen Cardaño said the service was introduced to him through a class group chat. While he has not availed of the online medical service, Cardaño lauded the university’s efforts to offer the program despite the limitations that come with the virtual setup.
“The services offered are mainly for COVID-19 related health issues but from what I can observe, it also has options for general healthcare,” Cardaño told the Flame.
“In general, the online classes setup really limits the potential help this program could give, though to be fair, there isn’t much one can do to offer safe, face-to-face healthcare as of the moment.”
Like Cardaño, second-year Medical Technology student Nicole Dominique Foja has not tapped the services of ThOMedSS but believes that it is worth her tuition.
“It is really helpful that ThoMedSS can also offer services that would cater to the needs of the student in the aspect of mental health where they could get diagnosis and prescription from a physician,” Foja added.
Foja, however, thinks that face-to-face consultations are still better than those done online.
“Face-to-face consultation is often more effective than online consultation since the doctor is able to see one’s overall condition in person. However, […] online consultation is better than no consultation at all,” she said.
The UST Health Service’s medical and dental fee ranges from P 200 to P 600 depending on the course program and is included in students’ miscellaneous fees. The UST College of Rehabilitation Sciences’ medical and dental fee ranges from P200 (without face-to-face) to P 600 (with face-to-face), while Conservatory of Music’s medical and dental fee is P500. The rest of the colleges only pay P200.
How it works
Al Joseph Arepentido, a staff nurse and quality management representative for UST’s health service system, said the system aims to ensure that at least 90% of consults are attended to by a nurse within ten minutes and by a doctor within 30 minutes from the time of appointment.
“Mine-measure namin ‘yung [target] para makita namin kung may problema ba sa pagbibigay ng services. Kung sakaling bumaba sa 90%, a-alamin kung anong problema (We measure our target goal to see if there are any problems within our services. In the event that it goes below 90%, we need to know what the problem is),” he said.
Arepentido said the targets contributed to the continuous improvement of their services. According to him, the present ThOMedSS has evolved since it was launched in 2011. He noted that the system did not have any means of communicating with their patients before. Now, consultations can be conducted and medical services can be rendered with just one click.
“ThOMedSS had very basic services before…(Now), we monitor problems monthly and weekly. So, improvements are really continuous),” Arepentido said.
Pros and Cons
As a staff nurse, Arepentido saw firsthand the advantages and disadvantages of providing an online health service. He said teleconsult allows university students from different parts of the country to access key medical services.
Teconsult, Arepentido pointed out, is also a big help for health service workers and patients since it immediately addresses their concerns.
“Nabibigyan ng advice, reseta, lab requests, and readily nakakapag-follow up kasi online lang. From the comfort of your own home, pwede ka magpa-check up (We can give advice. Prescription, lab requests, and follow-ups are readily available online. From the comfort of your own home, you can have a check-up),” Arepentido said.
When it comes to complaints and errors, Arepentido said such issues are encountered mostly by first-time users who are not tech-savvy and elderly patients who have a hard time using the system that relies on internet connection.
“If you notice, when you enter a request for consultation in our system, you need to refresh the page every now and then to see the nurse or doctor’s reply. Usually, this step is overlooked because patients assume that there is still no reply when there really already is,” Arepentido added.
Arepentindo assured the Thomasian community that efforts were made to make ThOMedSS efficient at a time when it is needed the most. He noted that there is no need for a student to queue in the system since the health services staff would initiate the consultation once they see the declaration form.
“We don’t wait for them to book a consultation. We have a health declaration checklist in our system where you can declare what you physically feel, whether you have COVID symptoms, whether you were exposed [to possible COVID-19 cases],” he said.
Arepentindo said the health service is open to suggestions that would allow ThOMedSS to serve more Thomasians.
University employees and students can access ThOMedSS at https://thomedss.ust.edu.ph. F – Nyah Genelle de Leon, Bless Aubrey Ogerio and Hannah Beatrisse Oledan