Telepresence connects COVID patients with loved ones

| Written by Padayon UP

COVID-19 is projected to require a massive inventory of medical supplies. This was the impetus for the UP College of Medicine to spearhead SIBOL (Tagalog for germination), a project which aims to use locally sourced material and technology to produce much needed surgical and medical devices. This is a joint program with UP Diliman and sponsored by Department of Science & Technology-Philippine Council for Health Research & Development (DOSTPCHRD). The S.I.B.O.L. (Surgical Innovation and Biotechnology) Team includes collaborating clinicians from UP Manila and engineers, scientists, and even artists from UP Diliman.


The SIBOL-COVID Task Force was recently convened to support the fight against the pandemic especially in the context of the Philippine General Hospital being declared a COVID Hospital.  Initial landscape assessment led the Task Force to form 3 teams:  Disinfection, PPE (personal protective equipment), and Telemonitoring teams.


After 2 weeks of frantic collaboration, one of the first SIBOL products deployed were Telepresence Devices.  Inspired by triage booths initially set-up to screen ambulatory patients, the team led by Dr. Nats Orillaza (Orthopedics), Dr. Pros Naval (Computer Science), and Dr. Luis Sison and Dr. Roel Ocampo (Electronics & Electrical Engineering Institute) assembled devices which allowed health care workers to connect to patients remotely. This technology solution limits exposure, conserves personal protective equipment, and provides clear communication with a “friendly face”.


This SIBOL COVID Telepresence Group initially set up computers programmed to automatically answer calls from authorized accounts using available teleconferencing and remote-control applications, thus minimizing contamination and allowing effortless access even by patients with no technological know-how.  The units were also deployed to pediatric COVID wards, connecting anxious pediatric patients with families who are sometimes not allowed to stay with them inside the ward.


The further use of the devices in ICUs and adult wards have also been facilitated by PGH point person Dr. Homer Co.  To take on this function, the Team has shifted to deploying smaller untethered devices, mounted on stands with wheels, that can be easily mobilized in these areas of high viral load.


Hardware used for initial deployment was sponsored by Xavier School class of 1975 while wooden stands were designed, manufactured, and subsidized by Projektzulu Co.  The team also acknowledges the Department of Orthopedics for providing a headquarters and logistical support for this S.I.B.O.L. Telemonitoring project.

Dr. Edward Wang


First published in UP Manila Healthscape (Special COVID-19 Issue), No.3, 05 May 2020

(This was originally posted on the UP Manila website on May 25, 2020)