From his own experience of how manual, complex, and unintegrated Indonesia’s health care system was when he had to accompany his mother to undergo tumor treatment, Harya Bimo decided to build a startup that could solve those problems. Armed with his experience in the IT industry, Bimo built Medigo in 2019. He believes that society will be greatly improved if the health sector can be digitized. Bimo also shared his thoughts about the difficult decisions he had to take as a leader — a pivot in his company’s business model, as well as letting go a number of employees to extend his startup’s runway until Medigo bounced back stronger in the second half of 2020.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
KrASIA (Kr): How did you get into the world of healthcare?
Harya Bimo (HB): I started my career as a freelancer; creating UX website designs. Eventually, I founded my first company, Definite, a digital transformation agency built in 2009 where I am still the founder and chairman. I then started building Qasir [which offers SMB tools] as one of Definite’s internal projects. It was later acquired by an investor in 2017. That was actually my first exit, then I used the money to set up Medigo in 2018.
Why did I start a health tech startup? Six years ago, my mother was diagnosed with a tumor. I often accompanied her to the hospital for treatment. I saw how a patient’s data and track record was not centralized. When I had to change hospitals, I had to retell my mother’s medical history. The same went for doctor’s appointments and the process of claiming insurance. Time is wasted due to administrative problems. I developed a fresh perspective as to how the healthcare sector needed to be digitized, especially for patients or their companions. Time is something that is very valuable.
There are innovators and pioneers who don’t belong in certain industries initially. All they know are the problems before they start. I had to climb a steep learning curve.
Kr: What is the current healthcare system and landscape like in Indonesia?
HB: The pandemic has escalated digital transformation in the healthcare industry. This is big momentum for any health tech company that would like to introduce their solution in the market. Now, more than ever, hospitals, clinics, and doctors are in need of a technology solution to solve the issues and challenges in the industry. The landscape is still very lopsided when it comes to healthcare services in Indonesia.
Java Island is the main focus. We have about 2,800 hospitals all over Indonesia, most of them in Java. Along with the public health center, we have about 18,000 clinics all over Indonesia. Everyone is working in silos. There’s no interoperability in terms of data exchange. When you go from one hospital to the next or when you are referred to a specialist, there’s no centralized access to your personal healthcare records. In other countries, you can go into a clinic and they can access all of your healthcare data. We still have a long way to go.
Kr: What problem are you trying to solve through Medigo? And how are you doing that?
HB: We are trying to bridge the gap of interoperability in health data. Our mission is for healthcare to be connected, specifically to establish links between healthcare stakeholders. Many tech startups are focusing on acquiring more patients onto their platforms. We are focusing on the provider’s side by digitizing providers, hospitals, and clinics.
Recently, we found success in the clinical sector more than in the hospital’s. It’s more scalable. Pivoting from hospitals to clinics, we realized we can bring on board a clinic to our digital platform faster. We currently have more than 80 clinics in 43 cities across Indonesia joining our network, Klink Pintar (Smart Clinic), to implement technology in their operations. We also distribute a lot of patients from our channels to their clinics, helping them increase revenue.
Klinik Pintar’s business model is unique because we don’t charge for the technology. We provide clinics with additional revenue when they use our technology. By digitizing healthcare providers, they can then provide a better experience to the patients. That’s been our mission since day one and that has not changed.
Kr: What steps should healthcare stakeholders take so that health facilities in Indonesia can become more inclusive?
HB: In terms of regulations, there’s no electronic medical record (EMR) regulation that has been published by the government yet. There are regulations for physical medical records, which healthcare providers still follow. Every hospital manager and clinic owner has their own perspective of how the EMR should be, which isn’t good. We have a global standard for healthcare interoperability with five levels to be achieved. Indonesia is still at the first and second levels.
It’s not just about the infrastructure. It’s about the awareness from practitioners—doctors, hospital owners, the management—to embrace technology. It has been lacking over the past five to ten years. The best way is to develop their own hospital information system, but that still works in a silo. The approach should be to develop your own IT for your own hospital, but to still connect it between hospitals. Many parties have been doubting the credibility of the data presented around COVID in Indonesia. That has been an issue for the last ten to 20 years. The awareness of the importance of health data has been lacking in all practitioners.
Kr: Can you share some of what you’ve learned, your biggest mistakes, and the hardest decision you’ve made?
HB: One mistake would be to assume that with knowledge and experience in technology, the problem can be solved. I was solving the wrong problem after making wrong assumptions. We have pivoted five times in the last two years. Later, I looked at the problem from the user’s perspective, and then I could pinpoint what really needed to be addressed.
Our first product is a Patient Management System for hospitals. We connect existing information systems in the hospital. Once we implemented it at the first hospital, we needed to change the product multiple times and there were many complications. It ended up taking one year, which was quite a bit longer than a three-month implementation plan. That’s when we switched to the clinical side, which had much fewer complications. My advice is to immerse yourself with the stakeholders whom you’re solving the problem for as soon as possible. Have the learning mentality.
The hardest decision was early on in the pandemic, when we had to let go of people in order to expand. It was one of my lowest moments as a founder and entrepreneur, but we started to pick up traction mid-year. We bounced back in the second semester of 2020 and started hiring again, especially those we had let go.
Kr: What is your outlook for the healthcare industry in Indonesia for 2021?
HB: In Indonesia, telemedicine has picked up because of the pandemic. People are afraid to go to physical facilities to attend their consultation. There’s been a new wave of telemedicine in the country, but it only addresses 20% of the symptoms. The other symptoms can’t be solved with telemedicine, especially the chat platforms. The next wave looks like it’ll be online to offline, or omni.
The digital role of healthcare is to provide flexibility and balance between online and offline interactions, with integrated data to support it.