When COVID-19 hit Indonesia in early 2020, healthcare providers throughout the country had to rapidly implement new measures and policies to combat the numerous challenges that arose from the pandemic.
For many medical facilities, this included having to begin, if not accelerate, the adoption of digital technology, so that they could provide their patients with services such as telemedicine, teleradiology, and online pharmacies, among others.
While many hospitals and their clinicians initially struggled to adapt to the new digital technologies, Primaya Hospital Group faced no such issues.
After all, Primaya had already been using various digital solutions before the pandemic, which meant that their staff and clinicians were able to pivot to using technologies like telemedicine easily.
Leona Karnali, CEO of Indonesia’s Primaya Hospital Group, revealed: “The pandemic made digital solutions the best option to deal with the crisis. Thankfully, Primaya Hospital had been using electronic medical records (EMR) in all of our hospitals (before the pandemic), connecting all aspects of our services, from appointment booking, to consultations to ancillary services, such as radiology, laboratory, and pharmacy.
“Given our use of EMR previously, the on-boarding process for telemedicine in our hospitals could be accelerated.
“We collaborated with the LinkSehat application to help us cater to the needs of our patients by providing online consultations, online prescription, as well as easy booking for COVID-19 tests and face-to-face consultations.”
In addition, Primaya implemented an online payment system in order to expedite various processes, such COVID-19 screening tests and online prescriptions, for their patients.
The hospital group also worked closely with the country’s Ministry of Health to ensure that their COVID-19 screening results were directly connected with the government’s PeduliLindungi application, which aims to trace and track suspected patients as well as confirmed cases of COVID-19.
More intriguingly, Primaya even upgraded the equipment and systems in their radiology department to include an Artificial Intelligence (AI) component, which supports their doctors by pre-screening their patients.
Nonetheless, it was the implementation of telemedicine and remote consultations that proved to be one of the more difficult tasks for Primaya during the pandemic, as Leona explained: “The most challenging part, especially in the beginning, was convincing and educating users both patients and doctors to use the telehealth application.
“But as time progressed, more users become familiar with telemedicine, and so less support was needed. We’ve since continued to adapt to the patients’ needs by maintaining and developing more user-friendly features in our teleconsultation.”
While Indonesia are currently in the midst of administering COVID-19 vaccinations – as of October, about 34.4% of their population is currently fully vaccinated – it is still uncertain as to when the pandemic will finally be over.
This is why Leona firmly believes that remote consultations will continue to be widely used in the near future, even if COVID-19 eventually transitions from pandemic to endemic.
“We believe remote consultations will continue to be widely used even after the pandemic, because it is very convenient for both patients and doctors,” said Leona.
Despite her belief that remote consultations will remain in demand, Leona insists that there will be many instances where physical consultations are still required.
“We must understand and educate patients on the risks of relying on remote consultation alone,” Leona elaborated. “Patients must seek immediate medical help, and go directly to the hospital when symptoms persist or worsen before it is too late.
“Remote consultations can be helpful for patients when seeking prior information before they go to a specific specialist, or to get a second opinion. But doctors will still need to examine the patient physically in order to make a proper and thorough diagnosis.”
Thanks to the pandemic, digitalisation has gained significant momentum in the healthcare industry, with the majority of medical providers having since embarked on their own digital journey.
Leona is confident that this momentum will continue on in the future, and expressed her excitement at the “endless” possibilities and benefits that digital can continue to bring to healthcare.
“Digital technology has enabled the healthcare industry, including Primaya, to survive in the midst of the pandemic,” Leona mused. “It will continue to play an important role in the development of healthcare services…the opportunities and possibilities are endless.
“I believe a combination of AI and IoT (Internet of Things) will penetrate the industry because they can be easily packaged into high-tech medical equipment.
“Big data-driven decision making is also another possible future technology that could soon be widespread in the industry, although the process really depends on the hospital information system and database readiness to capture meaningful insights.”