From second from left, Smeru Research Institute director Widjajanti Isdijoso, Novartis Indonesia president director Jorge Wagner and health expert Jeremy Lim from Singapore at the 12th Future Trends Forum in Jakarta on Thursday. (JG Photo/Diana Mariska)

How Can Big Data Improve Healthcare?


NOVEMBER 21, 2019

Jakarta. Health experts and researchers are in agreement that optimizing the use of big data can greatly benefit the national healthcare system.

But it will take a perfect combination of several different methods before big data can start doing what it is supposed to do.

"Big data utilization comprises three aspects: data collection, data analysis and using insights and analyses gleaned from those data to establish regulations that can improve people's lives," Dr. Jeremy Lim, a health expert from the National University of Singapore, said during the opening of the 12th Future Trends Forum in Jakarta on Thursday.

Developed countries may have more sophisticated means of collecting and analyzing data, but they will mean nothing if they do not inform regulations. 

"All three aspects have to be present for big data to do its magic. At the moment, every country is still at the beginning stage in terms of big data utilization in the health sector," Jeremy said.

The director of Smeru Research Institute, Widjajanti Isdijoso, said on the same occasion that data collected by the national health insurance scheme, BPJS Kesehatan, can be used to widen access to health services in the vast archipelago. 

"BPJS Kesehatan had recently released data of all its members up to 2016. Researchers can analyze those data and then we can use the results to inform policies at the national level. For example, the medical record of each Indonesian citizen ideally should be accessible in every hospital and health care institution in the country. This will allow doctors to provide faster and more accurate diagnoses," Widjajanti said.

Before anything can be done with the BPJS data, though, the government must ensure that doing so will not break the law, particularly laws on individual privacy, she said. 

"We can learn from other countries how to deal with this issue," Widjajanti said.

Another pressing issue being discussed in Thursday's forum was the implementation of Universal Health Coverage (UHC), known as JKN in Indonesia.

Jeremy said the World Health Organization (WHO) had outlined three main pillars for UHC.

"First, population coverage. The government must decide which of the population will be covered. Second, [they have to decide] the types of services being provided. Lastly, [they have to have] financial protection," Jeremy said. 

It is common that countries running the UHC scheme will eventually have to deal with a deficit in the system, Jeremy said.

The problem is even bigger in Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous nation, where 83 percent of people have joined BPJS Kesehatan.

Only a small percentage of BPJS Kesehatan members belong to the group that does not receive government subsidies, Widjajanti said.

In Singapore, the government allows private companies to help with providing UHC.

"In many countries, the government covers basic services, which will be good enough for most citizens. However, the rich may want better services, and that's where the private sector can come in," Jeremy said.

Nevertheless, every country has its own challenges and problems so it cannot just copy the strategy of another.

"Local challenges need local solutions; you can learn from others' solutions, but you must adapt them to your own needs and goals," Jeremy said.