Interview: Jonathan Sudharta

What can be done to effectively limit the community transmission of Covid-19?

JONATHAN SUDHARTA: The Covid-19 pandemic is a matter of immediate national and international concern, and poses perhaps the greatest challenge that we have faced as a nation. In light of the need for social distancing, the dissemination of accurate information and proper health care education could prevent Covid-19 from being spread to millions of Indonesians. Telemedicine and online consultation services are assisting governments to mitigate transmission of the virus by providing platforms for education and screening, and a growing number of health care professionals have begun using online consultation platforms. Public education is an effective preventive measure, and in the case of Covid-19, it will help curb panic. It is important that accurate medical content is shared to displace any myths that may circulate. Even before the current crisis Indonesians faced a number of health care concerns. The limited availability of and access to health care is a key issue – particularly in rural areas where people may find themselves far away from hospitals or clinics.

How do you foresee the convergence of big data tools and health care in Indonesia?

SUDHARTA: Telemedicine platforms are in a unique position to collect data and understand the health care needs of its users. With the data we collect, we can focus on how to improve the health of customers who use our platform. It also allows us to track certain health care trends in Indonesia. For example, during rainy season – which corresponds with flu season – we can pinpoint hotspots wherein the flu peaks. We are able to see which cities and districts are affected the most by certain viruses, and we can ensure that a sufficient quantity of medication is deposited at pharmacies in the right locations. It is very important to work closely with the government in this respect, to achieve a clear indication of macroeconomic trends in the country.

Where are the top opportunities for technology to accelerate progress within the health care sector?

SUDHARTA: We work closely with the Ministry of Health and the national health insurance programme to provide digital health services through our mobile app, endorsed by the Social Insurance Administration Organisation (BPJS). Access to health care for Indonesian communities will be drastically expanded through similar strategic partnerships with health technology companies. There is a clear synergy between the goals of BPJS and those of online health care providers. We believe that an inclusive digital ecosystem must be created within the health care sector. Health tech companies, such as ours, are aware that many Indonesians in rural areas struggle to reach health care facilities. More than 74% of our users are outside of the two main metropolitan areas of Jakarta and Surabaya; this is a clear indication that the greatest need for innovative health care solutions lies within our rural communities.

To what extent can hospitals, pharmacies and insurance providers in Indonesia benefit from partnering with digital health care apps?

SUDHARTA: It is essential that all stakeholders in the public and private sectors work together to address health care challenges. Covid-19 has highlighted this. Digital solutions can be optimised in numerous ways to cater to health care needs and combat disease. For example, we partnered with Gojek to launch the Check Covid-19 service, connecting users to over 20,000 experienced doctors and some 1000 pharmacies. This partnership also enables the delivery of medicine to Indonesians in their homes, so users do not need to physically visit pharmacies. This is helpful not only during the pandemic, but appeals to everyone who struggles to visit pharmacies and hospitals under normal circumstances – such as the elderly and disabled. Leaders from the public and private sectors must work together to address Indonesia’s many health concerns.