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Modernizing Healthcare in Indonesia Listen with ReadSpeaker

Dr Varun Sethi - Jakarta Post interview

A technology-powered vision of our healthcare future is now a reality. Our smartwatches and fitness trackers continuously monitor our physical activities and sleep patterns. On our phones, a plethora of digital health apps takes the data from these trackers to monitor trends and detect changes.

If we are suffering from the sniffles or have any inexplicable symptoms, gone are the days when we must queue for hours in a hospital lobby just to talk to a doctor. We now just open an app to talk to the healthcare professional we need from the comfort of our couch. If the online doctor prescribes medicine for what ails us, all it takes is a few taps on an app for the medicine to be delivered to your door in an hour or so.

“Together, these smart technologies represent a transformative shift toward more interconnected, data-driven, and personalized healthcare delivery,” says Dr Varun Sethi, Regional Vice President, Commercial Outsourcing and Cluster Head for APAC.

That begs the question: “How much more will healthcare services evolve in Indonesia in the coming year?

Expansion and Integration

“In 2024, we foresee a significant expansion in home-based healthcare and the integration of smart technology into the healthcare landscape,” says Sethi. Demand for innovative healthcare solutions is expected to continue to grow in various sectors such as telemedicine, chronic disease management, personalized medicine, and mental health.

Start-up bicarakan.id, for example, has provided almost 17,000 users with a safe online space to talk about their problems with psychologists since it was founded in 2020.

Toward Tailored Treatments

Beyond telemedicine, healthcare businesses are looking at more advanced innovations such as genomics, which studies and uses our genetic blueprint to make treatments more precise, predictive, and personalized.

An example is Nalagenetics which provides a DNA testing service that determines the right medication, nutrition, and health screening for you. Another firm, Nusantics, uses genomic technology to understand the impacts of microbes on human health.

The awareness and adoption of these new approaches to healthcare could get a boost from the ratification last August of Indonesia’s Omnibus Health Law, which shifted Indonesia’s healthcare paradigm from medication to prevention. Embracing cutting-edge biomedical technology such as genome sequencing, the focus is now on tailoring patient treatments based on their genetic history and lifestyle choices.

Growth Factors

Sethi says it is crucial to empower the population to facilitate the swift adoption of technology in the healthcare sector, particularly focusing on the older demographic, which may need more health services but face more challenges in adapting to new technologies.

“There is a need for targeted educational and awareness campaigns to promote understanding and acceptance of health tech solutions, fostering a more inclusive adoption across diverse demographic groups,” Sethi says.

Another significant obstacle is the absence of standardized data formats and interoperability issues among tech platforms. This hampers data exchange, limiting the sharing of patient information and introducing complexities in delivering integrated care, according to Sethi.

Government Role

As part of the Health Ministry’s Digital Health Transformation Strategy for 2025-2029, the government is working toward addressing these issues. For example, the SATUSEHAT Platform aims to enable all healthcare providers in the country to exchange electronic medical records across a single network.

In addition, data security poses a significant risk, given the inherent handling of sensitive personal information in this industry. “Establishing robust cybersecurity measures and implementing stringent data protection regulations are essential for building trust and encouraging wider adoption of health tech solutions in Indonesia,” Sethi says.

This interview was originally published in Jakarta Post on January 30, 2024.

Learn more about DKSH Healthcare here.