- Telemedicine in Indonesia has grown during the COVID-19 pandemic, with prominent platforms like HaloDoc and Alodokter offering free services for mild COVID-19 cases.
- Ministry of Health partnerships with telemedicine platforms help alleviate strain on hospitals and prioritize critical patients.
- Challenges include inconclusive diagnoses, internet access disparities, and concerns about bio-ethics and patient data privacy, but telemedicine is improving healthcare access in Indonesia.
The telemedicine industry in Indonesia has significantly grown since the COVID-19 pandemic by boosting the digitalization of health services. Restriction on direct human contact encourages the use of telemedicine, which provides a platform where patients can consult with doctors and other health professionals from the comfort of their own homes. These platforms can also be used to obtain their medication through delivery.
Telemedicine’s Role in Relieving the COVID-19 Outbreak in Indonesia
The pandemic hit its significant peak of positive cases in Indonesia in July 2021 and February 2022.
In the middle of July 2021, the occupancy rate in hospitals was reported to have reached 75%. The severity was due to the Delta variant of the virus. At this time, the Minister of Health of Indonesia delivered free telemedicine services in partnership with prominent platforms such as HaloDoc and Alodokter. This partnership is established to accommodate asymptomatic patients or those with mild symptoms to get direction for stay-at-home care and medication delivery.
The following peak in July 2021 is followed by another peak in February 2022. The Omicron variant caused the third wave of COVID-19 in Indonesia, which became the biggest wave of positive cases, hitting more than 60,000 cases per day. As a result, the Minister of Health of Indonesia extended its previous free telemedicine service to help aid the unprecedented outbreak.
This effort helps to maintain hospital bed capacity, which is mainly occupied by mild and asymptomatic patients. This allows the hospital to prioritize patients optimally, focusing on those in critical condition.
Government’s Support and Challenges in the Telemedicine Industry
The Minister of Health (MoH) supports and regulates the telemedicine industry to accelerate health services and consultations in remote areas, especially areas with a deficit of health workers. At first, the recognition and regulation of telemedicine only applied to health service facilities to provide a digital platform for long-distance consultation. The service encompasses tele-ultrasonography, teleradiology, teleconsultation, and other relevant services.
However, due to the pandemic, the MoH, supported by Indonesian Medical Council (KKI), granted individual doctors and dentists also to directly provide their services through telemedicine platforms to keep healthcare services accessible. The doctors and dentists will have to provide their registration certificate and practice license from the partnered health service facility in order to be authorized.
Implementing the digitalization of health services has its barriers and challenges, such as:
- Possibility of inconclusive diagnosis by doctors due to lack of training in providing service from long-distance, resulting in inaccurate medication. Therefore, it is necessary to provide training to ensure the quality and accuracy of the consultation.
- Lack of equity in accessing the internet and economic capacity to obtain the access, especially in rural and remote areas. In addition, the difference in technology literacy between cities and provinces also creates disparity.
- Lack of bio-ethics in digital communication will deteriorate the doctor-patient relationship. Due to non-verbal and indirect consultation, communication between doctor and patient will be a lot more difficult. For example, in shared decision-making, doctors will have to convey their opinion will be lacking in comfort and compassion towards the patient.
- Privacy issues for health workers and patient data safety concerns
Key Players: Prominent Telemedicine Platforms in Indonesia
As of now, there are at least a dozen telemedicine platforms in Indonesia. However, Halodoc and Alodokter are the two prominent platforms that have been used by the majority of people since before COVID-19 hit.
Established in 2014, Alodokter has partnered with more than 30,000 doctors and also became an official partner with the MoH. The platform provides consultation chat with registered doctors, finds doctors and their practice hours and places, health articles, an Alodokter shop for purchasing medicine, and AloProteksi for insurance. In 2022, Alodokter
Halodoc was established two years after Alodokter. In 2019, the platform garnered Bill Gates’s attention, which was later funded through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and raised $100 million. Halodoc shares the same features as Alodoc, with the addition of providing test lab services.
In conclusion, telemedicine is revolutionizing healthcare in Indonesia, particularly amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. It has played a crucial role in relieving the outbreak by providing remote healthcare access, supported by the government’s recognition and regulation. However, challenges in training, internet access, and communication need to be addressed to ensure the quality and accuracy of telemedicine services in the country.
Main photo: By Fabien Destariano Farelli - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=112373207