Why data analytics is the next step in Indonesia healthcare’s digital journey

The effective use of big data, analytics, and artificial intelligence is where Indonesia’s healthcare should head towards next, says Putty Kartika, Country Director at GE Healthcare Indonesia.

For many years, the healthcare industry in Indonesia steadfastly refused to adopt new digital technology, and instead preferred to rely on tried-and-tested systems and processes.

Recently, however, an increasing number of the country’s healthcare providers have begun embarking on their own digital transformation – a change in mind-set that was driven in no small part by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Putty Kartika, Country Director at GE Healthcare Indonesia, Indonesia healthcare’s digital momentum is likely to continue in the coming years, even after the pandemic is over.

Putty Kartika, Country Director at GE Healthcare Indonesia.

“It was only in the past few years that Indonesia started to adopt digital technology, particularly in healthcare industry,” said Putty. “COVID-19 has forced most medical providers to further accelerate this digital adoption, and as such, more start-ups in the health-tech sectors are entering the Indonesia market to try and address the country’s healthcare challenges during the current pandemic, but also with an eye on the future.

“The adoption of new healthcare technology for the future has also been brought about by the age demographic of Indonesia, as the younger population is now digitally-savvy and able to fully utilise the new technologies that healthcare providers have implemented.”

Given the widespread digitalisation in the industry, healthcare providers are now able to easily access large amounts of data that covers all aspects – clinical, financial, and administrative – of hospital management.

Putty believes that if healthcare providers are able to analyse and use this data effectively, they will be able to improve their operations and, more importantly, provide a higher quality of care to their patients.

“Big data will help (healthcare providers) better understand their market and patients, so that they can apply the most suitable approach to implement service excellence,” Putty explained.

“For example, the use of predictive analytics that leverages big data may become very useful in hospital management, as it can enable clinicians to map out the quantity and type of drugs, interventions, length of stay in the hospital, as well as other key information, all of which ultimately goes towards improving patient outcomes.”

Further highlighting that an effective patient data strategy for hospitals should “revolve around the patient’s interest, by giving the best care possible in the most efficient manner”, Putty foresees that it is only a matter of time before Indonesia’s healthcare providers begin taking data analytics seriously.

“Sooner or later, in order to run a healthcare service business in an optimal manner, medical providers will need to leverage the use of data analytics,” Putty mused. “While this is crucial in order to have visibility in a competitive landscape, it is equally important to deploy the right data strategy, while improving cost effectivity and efficiency.”

The use of data analytics is also inextricably tied to another relatively new technology in the world of healthcare: artificial intelligence (AI).

After all, AI technologies are often used to analyse large amounts of data from different sources, in order to find patterns and predict future events.

AI is already used in certain aspects of healthcare, such as in medical imaging analysis, innovation continuum, and data management.

While the use of AI technologies can bring multiple benefits to medical providers, Putty cautioned that it will likely require a bit more time before it truly takes off in Indonesia’s healthcare sector.

She elaborated: “Unlike in other sectors, it is a particularly intricate process to effectively implement AI technologies in healthcare. While many start-ups are interested in scaling the adoption quickly, healthcare providers must first be certain that the AI technology they’re thinking of adopting is effective and scientifically proven to be safe for their patients.

“Furthermore, from Indonesia’s perspective, healthcare providers will need to deal with many regulators, innovators, and key opinion leaders before being able to fully utilise AI.

“Another factor that has to come into consideration is the impact of AI on the workforce, and whether it will repeat the work being done by certain staff.

“Finally, there must be an understanding among healthcare providers that AI is simply a tool to help in analysis and decision-making process, and not to completely replace the human touch, or the expertise of a trained healthcare professional.”

Nonetheless, Putty acknowledges that AI would be hugely valuable tool in helping healthcare providers in Indonesia with their clinical operations – but only if it is implemented correctly.

“The first step in implementing AI effectively in Indonesia has got to do with the healthcare data management,” said Putty. “It would be powerful if we can have big data collected across healthcare institutions – all the way from primary care (Puskesmas), to the individual hospitals, and even to the Ministry of Health.

“With the strong integration of the collected data, healthcare providers can possibly revolutionise their service across all facets, ranging from patient experience, diagnostics, therapeutics, and personalised medicine, in an effective and efficient way.

“I know it sounds so simple, but to implement this foundational step of collecting big data, Indonesia will need the full support of the industry, including both government and private institutions.”