Finding cleft patients has always been one of the biggest challenges for Operation Smile. Most of them are either located in impoverished, remote areas, or some of them are just not confident enough to seek treatment due to their physical appearance.

An initiative by PLDT wireless subsidiary Smart Communications, however, seeks to address this problem. The Operation Smile patient-mapping mobile application, which was conceptualized by Smart for Operation Smile Philippines (OSP), was deployed during a recent medical mission in Bacolod City.

“Most patients are in the provinces. The challenge is how to find them. Another challenge is that when you have a facial deformity, you don’t go out,” said Wiggy Fontanilla, OSP president. “This mapping and tracking system changes the whole endeavor by coming up with a heat map of patients.”

Better access, monitoring

At the Bacolod medical mission, volunteers have recorded cleft patients’ details using the app, as Operation Smile aims to store patient information on the Web for better access and monitoring.

Arleen Antolo, 24, a speech teacher at Hope Foundation and volunteer for Operation Smile, travels for at least two hours from Bacolod to far-flung rural health units and barangay health centers in Negros Occidental to meet with other volunteers and cleft patients for possible inclusion in succeeding medical missions.

Antolo, who has been a volunteer for three years now, said her love for teaching and for children were what drove her to help in Operation Smile. “It feels good to help cleft patients, and see them smile. Being treated will definitely help them have a better future,” she said.

Operation Smile app
Operation Smile volunteer Arleen Antolo (left) takes a photo of a 7-month-old cleft patient using the Operation Smile app in Barangay Bago, Salvador Benedicto, Negros Occidental.

Lessen paperwork

She expressed appreciation for the app, which she used to record patient details during the Bacolod mission. “This will help lessen paperwork—we won’t need to carry folders of patient records, which may get lost or even get wet when the rain comes,” Antolo said.

The Operation Smile app is available as a free download for iOS and Android devices. Anyone can download and use the app—just open an account and follow the instructions on uploading patient information.

Patient details gathered through the app will be uploaded to the central server of Operation Smile, which will use the information to monitor patients’ treatment and plan for the locations of succeeding medical missions.

Closer to communities

“In our efforts to use technology for good, we partner with institutions such as Operation Smile, which seeks to bring healthcare closer to communities. We support Operation Smile as it aims to eradicate the backlog of cleft conditions worldwide,” said Ramon R. Isberto, public affairs group head for PLDT and Smart.

For its part, Operation Smile has expressed its appreciation for Smart’s efforts. “We sincerely appreciate all that [Smart has] done to help us give people with cleft conditions new smiles,” the global Operation Smile unit said on its Twitter account. (Press release)

To support Operation Smile, Smart subscribers may also donate by texting SMILE (space) (amount) to 4483. works with the top brands in the country to reach out to the Cebu market. For inquiries, please send an email to [email protected].

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