Jakarta. Indonesia has made some progress when it comes to developing a digital health ecosystem, but there are certain knots to untangle before it can fully take off.
The government has shown its support for digital health adoption, issuing guidelines that made remote medical services possible and laying down broadband infrastructures that reach all of its major islands. Meanwhile, local developers and medical service providers come in drove to introduce their new technology in the market.
"Following the coronavirus outbreak, the Health Ministry issued a circular last year, which allows doctors and dentists to perform certain treatments via telemedicine," Dewi Muliaty, president director to medical laboratories operator Prodia Widyahusada, told the Jakarta Globe in a recent interview.
She noted how the government has also rolled out data security regulations, which are paramount in digital health.
Among them are the 2020 regulation on private electronic system providers (ESP) and the 2019 government regulation, which details how the use of a user's personal data by an ESP requires the user's consent. The personal data protection bill is also in discussion at the House of Representatives.
"Hopefully, these robust regulations can assist us in ensuring the data and digital tools are secure so that we are ready to implement digital health in Indonesia fully," Dewi said.
While this gives room for a digital health ecosystem to grow, there is still work to be done.
“First, and most importantly, digital health tools and policies need to be designed to meet the needs of patients,” Dewi said.
Dewi revealed there are currently more than 150,000 mobile apps for health and wellness. Forty-eight percent of these apps don’t even have a rating, and only five percent have amassed over a hundred downloads.
"The innovator has to fully understand the customers' needs — what causes them pain, what delights them and then design a solution that addresses that pain point. Public acceptance also depends on the users' competence and adaptation from the policymakers," she said.
Assuming these tools have met the patients' needs, it is important to drive digital adoption.
“There are certain actions that can help drive adoption, such as incentives inflexible operational licenses for new innovations which do not meet the current regulations, with fast response,” she said.
Campaigns involving public figures can also encourage people to try out digital health solutions. The most recent example is how country leaders and senior politicians receive their Covid-19 vaccines publicly to convince people to get their shots.
“Ensuring systems invest adequately in the needed infrastructure to support digital tools is also critical – especially in rural communities,” Dewi said.
A 2019-Q2 2020 nationwide survey by the Indonesian Internet Service Providers Association (APJII) revealed the country is home to 196,7 million internet users or 73.7 percent of the total population.
While the number jumped by around 25.5 million internet users in mid-2020, Java was still the largest contributor to the internet penetration, amounting up to 56.4 percent, the report showed.
A recent Roche Diagram Media Forum highlighted how the Palapa Ring project paves the way for Indonesia's digital health ecosystem. The project comprises 35,000 km undersea fiber-optic cables and 21,000 km land cables to bring 4G connectivity across the archipelago.
“There is enormous potential for digital health providers to improve many aspects of social and health care by providing additional support to empower them to take independent decisions,” Ahmed Hassan, director, country manager diagnostics to Roche Indonesia, told Jakarta Globe in a separate interview.
“Initiatives such as the Palapa Ring project by the government to facilitate telemedicine and ensure the access of healthcare to the furthest region by providing access to 4G internet and improving connectivity and services, are a step in the right direction,” he said.