DOST-PCHRD rolls out more RxBox telehealth devices to fight COVID-19

While waiting for the so-called “flattening the curve” in terms of the spread of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) that causes the deadly COVID-19, the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD) continues to deploy more RxBoxes in different hospitals across the country.
The DOST in collaboration with the University of the Philippines Manila – National Telehealth Center (UP-NTHC), University of the Philippines Diliman – College of Engineering, DOST – Advanced Science and Technology Institute, and the Department of Health (DOH) developed this telemedicine device that aims to supplement the country’s community healthcare system particularly to help Rural Health Centers (RHC) in the country.
Classified as a telehealth device, the RxBox is capable of measuring a patient’s temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen saturation, uterine contractions, and electrocardiogram readings remotely. In other words, the patient need not be physically present in the hospital because the device allows diagnosis to be done in another hospital by a specialist doctor.
Thus, the use of the RxBox device can reduce contact between patients diagnosed with COVID-19 and healthcare workers, as it provides an efficient way for healthcare workers to monitor multiple patients at once.
The RxBox devices are now deployed in selected healthcare facilities for bedside monitoring of vital signs, oxygen saturation, and electrocardiogram readings of patients diagnosed with COVID-19, especially those in severe or critical conditions who need continuous monitoring.
Some 106 RxBox devices were initially sent to designated COVID-19 wards in the Philippine General Hospital.
As the implementing agency, DOST Region IV-A assesses and coordinates the needs of the healthcare facilities in each region for the rollout of the RxBoxes to augment the health facilities, particularly in the provinces.
On the other hand, according to DOST Region X, there are 65 RxBox Telehealth devices earmarked for distribution in selected RHU sites across Northern Mindanao (Region 10). The sites will be appropriately evaluated through the project’s Pre-deployment Assessment procedure during which the Regional Management Team validates the qualifications of the proposed health facilities. Once approved, four (4) staff from the RHUs will be invited for a Super User Training and the facility will receive one (1) RxBox Telehealth device, one (1) CPU, one (1) monitor, and one (1) router for the deployment.
The RxBox units are being manufactured in partnership with IONICS EMS Inc., a local manufacturing company based in Laguna. (S&T Media Service)

DOST-ITDI’s Ready-to-Eat food expands product line and market share

Currently, Kai Anya Foods International Corporation, main manufacturer of the Ready-to-Eat (RTE) food branded as Pack of Hope (POH) arroz caldo, largely distributes to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to be used during times of calamity. Kai Anya is one of the adoptors of the technology provided by the Industrial Technology Development Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-ITDI).

With the good reception to the POH, the company eyes on expanding its market by serving the increasing demand for the product from schools, non-government organizations (NGOs), and supermarkets.

In 2014, DOST-ITDI developed RTE arroz caldo to address hunger and thirst of calamity survivors for the next 48 hours. The following year, the company took a chance to adopt the technology and commercialize the said product. It has been producing and marketing the Pack of Hope RTE since 2015.

“Hindi lasang relief,” is how a calamity survivor describes Pack of Hope RTE chicken arroz caldo.

DOST-ITDI’s Packaging Technology Division, in partnership with DSWD in regions 7, 11 and NCR conducted a survey on the acceptability of RTE chicken arroz caldo among calamity survivors. Almost 100% rated the samples as highly acceptable as relief foods. The taste is very acceptable and very convenient because it is ready to eat, easy-open and requires no preparation and cooking. It also does not contain preservatives (source: DOSTv).

Eventually, other enterprises saw the market potential for safe and delicious RTE food products. One company from the Visayas has already signed a memorandum of agreement for the adoption and commercialization of RTE chicken arroz caldo. Another company from NCR also intends to adopt the RTE chicken arroz caldo and RTE smoked fish rice meal variant.

Kai Anya’s RTE arroz caldo is currently the only one in the market that can be consumed without the need for hot or cold water to prepare. The commercially available arroz caldo, unlike Kai Anya’s POH-RTE, are either in powder that needs hot water to cook or chilled arroz caldo that still needs to be heated.

Other than arroz caldo, DOST-ITDI has other three variants that are ready for commercialization: smoked fish rice meal, boiled sweet potato, and cassava in light syrup.

In the pipeline are RTE food products that are ready for field testing: corn soup, chicken adobo and beef tapa rice meals. Local entrepreneurs, especially those who are looking for potential business, may check out DOST-ITDI website or contact DOST-ITDI for available technologies that can be adopted for commercialization.

For many occasions, DOST-ITDI’s developed technology has been a big part of Filipinos’ lives. The POH arroz caldo has been the lifeline for survivors of typhoons, eart quakes, landslides, and flooding. From typhoons Lando, Lawin, Nina, Ompong, Urduja, Tisoy, and others; earthquakes in Batanes & Mindanao; volcanic eruptions in Bicol and Taal; flash floods/landslides in Itogon, Benguet & Naga Cebu; fire victims in Cebu; Marawi siege; feeding program in Davao and Cagayan; and up to COVID-19 pandemic.

Today, DOST-ITDI continues to find ways to develop products that are not just convenient, but also nutritional. Ongoing is its development of RTE foods as combat foods for ‘men in uniform’ during combat operations. It is also working on RTE as disaster relief food that help address the nutritional needs of vulnerable groups (children and the elderly). Other relief food products under the brand name POH includes Packaged Breads (monay, pandesal, sliced bread) which has an extended shelf life of three months, uses active packaging technology, and are now ready for field testing and commercialization. (S&T News Service, Geraldine Bulaon-Ducusin)

In light of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), Onelab, through its member-laboratories joins the nationwide efforts in battling the war against the spread of COVID-19. While we are observing the work from home schemes, it never hindered laboratory staff to take part in its agency’s initiatives to help fight against the deadly virus.

While following the directives of their respective LGUs to stay-at-home, essential OneLab member-laboratories stepped-up to offer critical laboratory services by providing free testing of disinfectants and alcohols to determine its quality and purity before distribution to frontline institutions and personnel by the LGUs and private companies. Aside from disinfectants, PPEs such as facemask and lab gowns, are being sterilized through dose mapping and irradiation by the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute. On-going material and product testing are being conducted by lab staff of the Philippine Textile Research Institute for its REwear (Reusable, Washable, and Rewearable) facemasks again to be distributed for free to frontliners. Also, the laboratory staff, sourcing from their laboratory supply, prepared and distributed approximately 160L of 70% ethyl alcohol, surgical masks and nitrile gloves to several hospitals in the country. In addition, the RT-PCR machine of ITDI, FNRI, DOST CALABARZON, and DOST XI were lent to COVID referral hospitals and RITM in support of the call for mass testing.

Meanwhile, the following DOST laboratories remain open to serve the immediate needs of their customers: DOST XII Satellite Laboratory in General Santos City to accommodate the microbiological testing needs of the tuna canneries in the area, DOST II to provide road tanker calibration and the Pharmacology and Toxicology section of Industrial Technology Development Institute to maintain the laboratory animals being used for research by the Institute.

Despite the temporary suspension of services of several laboratories, the OneLab IT referral system is running and functional allowing for referral of samples to member-laboratories that are open. In fact, DOST IX referred eight (8) coffee samples for microanalysis to Intertek Philippines and two (2) samples for nutritional fact analysis are scheduled to be sent to the same laboratory.

Dedicated to providing awareness to the public, DOST RSTLs and RDIs disseminated information through their respective official Facebook page on the basic protective measures against COVID-19 such as proper handwashing, use of disinfectant, gloves, and face masks as well as other related information to help flatten the curve of the pandemic. Moreover, they assisted their respective LGUs in linking to laboratory suppliers for disinfectants and PPEs such as face masks and gloves.

Among the 31 Non-DOST member-laboratories, the following are open to serve its customers, Philippine Institute of Pure and Applied Chemistry (PIPAC), National Reference Laboratory (NRL), Intertek Testing Services Philippines, Inc.; SGS Philippines, Inc.; Optimal Laboratories, Inc., Analytical Solutions & Technical Services (ASTS), Negros Prawn Producers Cooperative (NPPC), Jefcor Laboratories. In the international front, the following OneLab members, Australian Food Microbiology-Australia, Geoscience Testing Laboratory–UAE, SGS Thailand, and Cordina Chicken Farms-Australia, are categorized under essential services hence they remain fully operational.

Looking ahead, we, the OneLab will continue to be working together with our partner organizations to defeat COVID-19 as one. We heal as one! (Rosemarie Salazar, DOST Region IX)