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As chair of the Group of 20 major economies (G20), Indonesia has begun discussions with members on standardizing health standards for travel, stressing the importance of harmonizing rules and technology as travel world resume in earnest.

The standardization of health regulations for travel is crucial, as certifications issued in one country may currently be incompatible with each other, making international travel more complicated than it should be.

Indonesia recommends that standardization follow various countries’ COVID-19 regulations, including whether vaccines, tests or testing authorities would be recognized. It also proposes to streamline travel rules between the European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

In an exclusive interview with Mohit Sagar, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of OpenGov Asia, Setiaji, Head of Digital Transformation Office at Ministry of Health, Indonesia explained the standardization of the G20 health protocol and how G20 member countries will benefit from it.

The role of technology in healthcare

Public and private sector organizations have accelerated their digital transformation to meet the challenges caused by the global pandemic. The adoption of technologies such as IoT, AI, and robotics has increased dramatically due to the digital transformation journey, catalyzing beneficial change.

“Technology and associated systems can help find diseases and prevent their spread, but the most important thing is to first prevent diseases from happening,” says Setiaji. “As a first response, the government can use a variety of new technologies and Indonesia has already greatly minimized the impact of the pandemic by using technology.”

The potential benefits of digital transformation have been carefully considered by the Indonesian government. The country is eager to deploy the use of digital technology to engage citizens in governance, economic recovery and overall development.

Indonesia’s rapid urbanization makes it an ideal candidate for smart city innovations. The country is unique in its rapidly depleting coal reserves, moving away from status as the world’s largest recycler of plastic waste and striving to support economic growth through digitalization, with incentives to encourage people to build more sustainable cities.

“Health care is a basic need for Indonesians, as it is for the whole world,” acknowledges Setiaji. “The Indonesian Ministry of Health is focused on accelerating the country’s healthcare system for the benefit of the public.”

The country recently unveiled its first digital health plan, laying the groundwork for digitizing the country’s health services to expand inclusive healthcare coverage to its 270 million citizens. The plan guides the government to use digital technologies to advance its national goal of providing universal, affordable, equitable and high-quality healthcare to all Indonesians.

The digital health plan lays the foundation for the development of Indonesia’s enterprise architecture for health technologies. It is supported by important pillars such as the digital integration of patient and healthcare provider health information and the coordinated development of digital health infrastructure.

Setiaji, who oversees the digital and information team, says improvements in health technologies are being used to modernize the health sector and help bridge the gap between urban and rural areas. Additionally, the Indonesian government is aggressively attacking the country’s health data system.

New technologies such as smartphone apps and other types of telemedicine are improving the quality of health care in Indonesia and making it easier to access services for people in the more remote areas of the archipelago.

A good example is the mobile contact tracing app – PeduliLindungi – used as part of a plan to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

Standardization of the G20 health protocol

In its role as chair of the Group of Twenty (G20), Indonesia has begun discussions with members of the group to establish standardized health protocols for international travel, as nations cautiously gradually lift border restrictions.

“We need a standard COVID-19 vaccine passport to recognize other people’s countries and to move around and recover from pandemics faster,” says Setiaji. “Synchronized and harmonized global health protocols are needed for safer international travel and to accelerate permanent social and economic recovery.”

Indonesia is keen to ensure that safe and healthy travel procedures are the same everywhere, especially regarding the recognition of COVID-19 vaccination certificates. A plan was recently announced to make digital certificates of COVID-19 vaccines more uniform by using a WHO-compliant universal verifier. The system is web-based and can be used on any device. Each country does not have to change the way QR codes are used or the system itself.

Health guidelines vary from country to country, with some being stricter than others. Thus, each country has the freedom to use the health protocols that suit it, with clear and universal rules. This strengthens the global health system and facilitates travel between countries.

Additionally, health protocols must be synchronized so that health information can flow between systems. This process is likely to start in countries that are part of the G20 and then spread to other countries. They are also looking for a third party to manage the system independently.

If successful, Setiaji believes similar regulations can be adopted by ASEAN countries. “This vision is not just about the G20 countries; it is also for the rest of the world. To this end, we have already begun to establish partnerships with other countries.

Data in the healthcare space

Digitization is reshaping the way the healthcare sector interacts with healthcare professionals, medical data is shared or decisions are made in the context of treatment and outcomes. Some examples of healthcare digitization are artificial intelligence powered medical devices, telemedicine, blockchain, remote patient monitoring, and electronic health records.

The primary goal of healthcare innovation is to streamline the work of healthcare professionals, optimize medical software systems, reduce human error, improve patient outcomes and reduce costs through integrated web and mobile experiences. However, to achieve the best outcomes for patients, it is necessary to share their data. There are ways to do this while maintaining patient privacy and data security, according to Setiaji.

Setiaji emphasizes that security by design is necessary to create a new, more secure hardware and software ecosystem. This will radically update the foundations of the insecure digital IT infrastructure. It also requires security standards whose main objective is to reduce risks, in particular by preventing or mitigating cyberattacks.

The adoption of information systems in public health management in Indonesia aims to properly manage data to improve the efficiency of health service delivery. “We are also working with other government agencies and partners to secure data in the healthcare sector,” Setiaji reveals.

Data in the field of health must always be available. So, as part of the country’s health technology transformation pillar, the Indonesian Ministry of Health recently launched the Indonesian Health Service Platform.

The SATUSEHAT platform aims to support the implementation of other Indonesian health systems transformation pillars, such as primary services transformation, referral services transformation, health resilience systems transformation, health financing and the transformation of human resources in the health sector.

This comes as the ministry aims to integrate the platform into 8,000 health facilities across the country by the end of this year.

For the healthcare industry to continue its digital transformation, Setiaji believes the entire nation must have a clear understanding of its mission and vision. The road to successful digital transformation is paved with courageous leadership decisions, political consensus and the support of the population at large. “Collaboration is also essential, as the transformation process cannot be led by a single individual or a single party.”

Setiaji is convinced that the digital transformation of the health sector in Indonesia in the next three to five years is possible by establishing a solid foundation within the health system. Its goals include producing more mobile health apps for public accessibility, improving health policy and system, and building businesses with unicorn status that grow rapidly. He is confident that the future of health care and patient outcomes in Indonesia is bright given the nation’s focus and dedication to serving its citizens.