Economic View

On expanding access to care amid a pandemic

In what ways have mobile applications helped to limit community transmission of Covid-19 in Indonesia?

TERAWAN AGUS PUTRANTO: The Ministry of Health (MoH) created a Covid-19 feature on its SehatPedia app to provide information to the public regarding the transmission and dangers of the virus. SehatPedia also offers a self-assessment tool to facilitate early detection in the community. This screening assesses the likelihood that a person is infected and assists users in taking appropriate measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Importantly, there is a consultation feature that enables users to directly consult with doctors regarding Covid-19 symptoms and other concerns. 

Technology also has enhanced how individuals receive their Covid-19 test results. Users can view the results of both rapid and polymerase chain reaction – commonly known as PCR – tests on the app. Moreover, the health facility where the test is conducted sends results in the form of a QR code that functions as a valid health document and can be used to certify approval to travel by land, sea or air. Collaboration between private health providers and the government is ongoing to further develop the app and limit Covid-19 transmission.

What role can telemedicine play in filling gaps in health care services, especially in light of the country’s territory being spread across a large archipelago?

PUTRANTO: There have been various initiatives aimed at increasing access across all areas of the country, which consists of thousands of islands. These include the Nusantara Sehat programme, which involved sending a team of doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists, sanitarians and nutritionists to remote areas for two years. We also constructed more hospitals to serve local communities. 

However, telemedicine is an important tool in providing the community – and particularly those in remote areas – equitable access to health care services, thus filling gaps. We have tapped these technologies to facilitate interactions between patients and doctors, as well as between doctors and other doctors. For example, technology can enable health workers or general practitioners in remote areas to consult with specialists in urban hospitals regarding examination results. 

Health apps are also key in making health care more accessible, as they allow patient-to-patient and doctor-to-doctor communication to occur in real time. The MoH established a telemedicine system called Telemedicine Indonesia, or Temenin, that is used to accommodate telemedicine interactions between medical personnel in procedures such as ultrasounds, radiography and electrocardiograms. Consultation services between users and doctors, meanwhile, can be found on SehatPedia.

How can decision-makers support the growth of the digital health care industry, while also ensuring patient safety and privacy?

PUTRANTO: Indonesia has developed the health care protocols needed to ensure patient safety and privacy. With regards to the digitalisation of health care services, the country formed a regulatory sandbox that should help cultivate an innovative digital ecosystem capable of supporting a reliable, safe and high-quality health system. The sandbox is used to accelerate the development of digital health regulations and health apps. 

This approach provides an opportunity for regulators and providers to explore innovative business models and analyse risks for consumers, while at the same time developing controls. The regulatory sandbox uses a testing mechanism model for digital service platforms that will be applied to assess the reliability of business processes, business models, service instruments and the governance of digital health service delivery.