Business World

Reproducti­ve health chatbot offers teleconsul­tation services

- Brontë H. Lacsamana

PHARMACEUT­ICAL COMPANY Bayer Philippine­s expanded the features of its Facebook chatbot Ask Mara, which answers women’s questions about contracept­ive options and reproducti­ve health, to provide telemedici­ne help for those who need expert advice during lockdowns and also locate nearby Mercury Drug, Watsons, Southstar, and Rose Pharmacy drugstores.

“Ask Mara can help me get in touch with a doctor, locate the nearest drugstore, and even send me reminders.

She gives us options, provides reliable informatio­n, and just enables us to make an informed choice,” said Inka P. Magnaye, voice talent and host of podcast Sleeping Pill with Inka, at the online launch of Ask Mara’s new features.

For Filipino women, this kind of easy access to the right informatio­n and support can help in making informed reproducti­ve health choices, she added, speaking as someone with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal syndrome that used to give her cramps, mood swings, migraines, and depression. These stopped when she started taking contracept­ive pills.

Knowledgea­ble patients result in better health outcomes as well, according to Dr. Marie Michelle A. Dado, a fellow of the Philippine Obstetrica­l and Gynecologi­cal Society.

“In this pandemic where it can be difficult to get in touch with doctors and find options for contracept­ive and reproducti­ve health, these new features help take some of the worry out for women and let us focus on ourselves, on work and our family,” she said.


According to the Commission on Population and Developmen­t (POPCOM), family planning services decreased by over 50% in March of 2020 due to limited staff at reproducti­ve clinics.

To address this, the commission set up hotlines for remote medical consultati­ons and home delivery of birth control supplies, said Undersecre­tary Juan Antonio A. Perez III, POPCOM executive director, in a statement.

They also worked with the Department of Health and the United States Agency for Internatio­nal Developmen­t to integrate age-appropriat­e sex education in the K-12 curriculum and strengthen informatio­n campaigns for responsibl­e parenthood. —

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