Indonesian Healthcare-Winds of Change
    Category: Column By : Rhenu Buller, Frost & Sullivan Read : 1392 Date : Saturday, September 13, 2014 - 09:48:08

    Indonesia is moving into universal healthcare coverage, to be fully implemented by 2019. The policy is expected to boost healthcare coverage to more than one-third of Indonesia’s population, who are not covered now nor have the ability to pay out-of-pocket. While heralded as the next big thing in Indonesia, implementation and the ability to reach the consumer and provide required healthcare access cost effectively has led to many to take a wait and see attitude towards its success.

    Indonesia has achieved its targets for primary care centers (puskesmas), which is one for every 30,000 persons, and this number is expected to increase. On the other hand, the number of hospital beds in Indonesia is well below the global average of three beds per 1,000 population. Indonesia has a 0.97 ratio compared to neighbors: Malaysia (1.6), Singapore (2.2) and Thailand (2.0). While there has been a rapid increase in number of beds in the last two years, Indonesia still has a low bed to population ratio.

    One way to cope with this bed shortage is to increase minimally invasive surgery or day procedures, as well as raising early intervention so there is less need for hospitalization. Indonesia’s widespread geography hampers building new facilities, but telemedicine and mobile medicine can be an alternative. Yet these are slow to develop as well due to a lack of IT infrastructure and funding.

    Medical education is one area that could benefit from IT. There is severe shortage of doctors in the country, and those practicing often can’t find the time to learn, or lack access to, to the latest medical advances. Another issue is that most doctors are found in urban areas, as they prefer to live and work in these areas and not the rural ones. Technology could help with these challenges.

    There are initiatives in place, but these are fragmented and infrequent—for example, the Ministry of Education approved video conferencing as a formal means to educate healthcare professionals across the country. Another major trend is the investment in SMS-based educational programs by the government to reach rural populations.

    From an industry perspective, technology can drive change in the way things have always been done in Indonesia. For example, online pricing catalogs for medical products can create national transparency in pricing, which now can widely vary. However, as universal healthcare coverage comes with some challenges, one of them being creating a single price for a procedure that fails to take into account the justifiable variations in cost due to location, availability and distribution costs. This policy could end up limiting rather than expanding coverage.

    As Indonesia undergoes its healthcare transformation, it will need strong collaboration between key stakeholders such as the government, healthcare professionals and even patients, to build a strong healthcare delivery ecosystem. Healthcare literacy amongst consumers is a one of the largest gaps and often one that is overlooked. If the goal of making Indonesians healthier is to be achieved, each stakeholder needs to own their space and responsibility, engage with other stakeholders and take initiatives to drive change. Use of technology needs to be the next focus in healthcare services and is crucial for the success of universal healthcare.