An Indonesian hospital’s journey in digitalisation

Dr Muhammad Ardian and Dr Cahyo Wibisono from the Universitas Airlangga Hospital share how an internal informatics team has helped to develop IT capabilities in the hospital.

In 2016, the Universitas Airlangga Hospital (UNAIR) in Indonesia was facing a challenge, albeit a happy one. Only established in 2010, the teaching hospital was facing an ever-increasing number of patients, keen to seek services from the new medical facility. An upgraded information management system was needed, to manage the influx of patients and information.

“Back in 2016, we had an information system that was developed by a third-party company. Yes, it worked, but it was a basic system for simple data input and processing,” said Dr Muhammad Ardian, Medical Services Manager at UNAIR. “That is why we recruited an internal informatics engineering team, to help us identify the needs by speaking to the various departments in the hospitals, and enhancing the system based on the departments’ requirements.”

Building internal IT capabilities

A lean team of 5 engineers was set up, and immediately set to work. By 2017, a customised Electronic Medical Records (EMR) system was rolled out in the outpatient departments. The team has gone on to set up more IT systems and applications since then, each helping to drive efficiency in care delivery and costs in the hospital.

One example is the Nutrition application, which tracks each patient’s nutritional intake, the type of medication they are on as well as their lab results. Integrated with the hospital’s EMR, it has enabled doctors, nurses and nutritionists to easily access these different sets of information in one platform, and also for sharing across departments and with the government health authorities.

The expertise built up in IT systems has come in useful during the pandemic. In managing the COVID-19 PCR testing process, the SI PERDANA application was built to manage registrations and booking of timeslots. The test results would then be sent to the individuals via email. This helped to cut down on time-consuming manual processes, directing critical manpower resources to other urgent tasks during the pandemic. The system also helps the hospital in tracking and evaluation of data, such as the time taken for results to be sent out. This then serves to highlight areas of potential bottlenecks, for the team to review and improve on.

Commitment to digitalising hospital processes

Looking back at the journey thus far, Dr Ardian noted that while there were limitations in budget and resources as a public hospital, “we have the will, and the support from the management and stakeholders was critical.” While developing the hardware was a significant task in itself, getting buy-in and support from the users was crucial as well. This was no easy feat, given that the hospital has now grown to over 280 beds and approximately 160 doctors at its premises; and as a teaching hospital, stakeholders also include the staff and students from the Universitas Airlangga’s Faculty of Medicine.

Dr. Cahyo Wibisono, manager of Medical Supporting System, recalled: “In the beginning, there was some resistance from some staff members to use the new software. We managed their concerns by explaining the functions of the systems, and how they would help raise the effectiveness and efficiency of the hospitals’ services and care for the patients.” He was happy to find that over time, the feedback from staff has become more positive, and they are now more keen to be on board with the subsequent software launches. Some have even approached the IT team, for systems to be developed for their own units.

The team is now working towards becoming a “paperless hospital”, digitalising processes in all the inpatient and operating theatres. They have approached each department to understand which processes are currently still carried out via paper, and how those processes may be digitalised. Dr Ardian expressed his hope that this exercise could be completed in the next one or two years. With an experienced team that has numerous successful projects under its belt, this goal definitely looks within reach.