Medical Doctor Adintya P. Gusti is Brighter’s market specialist from Southeast Asia. She has conducted a qualitative study among diabetes-care professionals in Indonesia to assess their views on how digital services can help the country address unmet needs.
“In Indonesia, we have resource limitations and geographical challenges that make it difficult to reach patients,” says Adintya. “I was interested to find out how doctors in this setting feel about using digital services to support them in treating patients.”
The qualitative study – “Reducing the burden of diabetes: digital health opportunities and challenges in Indonesia” – was performed during 2020. Adintya interviewed 11 doctors working with diabetes patients in cities around the island of Java. The interviewees included general physicians, internal medicine specialists and endocrinologists.
“My findings confirmed my initial assumption that there are significant unmet needs in the diabetes care cycle that digital services can help to address,” she says.
Adintya joined Brighter in 2018 for an internship in conjunction with her Bioentrepreneurship studies at Sweden’s world-renowned medical university, Karolinska Institutet. The qualitative research project was part of this work.
“Indonesia’s most significant diabetes care challenge is the country’s low physician to patient ratio, with just 0.7 physicians per 1000 people.”
Physical challenges, digital solutions
Indonesia’s most significant diabetes care challenge is the country’s low physician to patient ratio, with just 0.7 physicians per 1000 people. The ratio is even more severe when it comes to subspecialized doctors; there are only 120 endocrinologists in the whole country to serve millions of diabetes patients.
“All diagnosed diabetes patients in Indonesia visit the doctor once a month. This is a high frequency, so doctors are meeting as many as 40 patients a day for just five or ten minutes each,” says Adintya. “Thus, the time efficiencies you can get from digital services and big data are perceived to offer huge potential benefits.”
“Indonesians are heavy users of the internet and smartphones.”
The doctors whom Adintya interviewed were also interested in the prospect of using digital treatment data for studying diabetes among the Southeast Asian population as a whole.
“Indonesians are heavy users of the internet and smartphones,” she says. “People are using apps all the time for taxi services and food deliveries, for example. The high penetration of smartphones is seen as one of the main pillars for implementing digital care.”
Change is a process
Adintya presented her work at the Jakarta Diabetes Meeting 2020 last November, and it will also be featured at the international Advanced Technologies & Treatments for Diabetes conference in June 2021.
“More can be done in Indonesia to empower patients in self-monitoring at home, and in using technology to deliver patients’ treatment data to doctors. This could potentially minimize the need for in-person visits,” says Adintya.
“In order for comprehensive change to take place in Indonesian diabetes care, we need multi-disciplinary cooperation between healthcare professionals, technology developers, the health authorities and other players,” says Adintya. “Change is a complex process that needs to be managed.”