health21Guest post by Stephen Lock.

Indonesian physicians are turning to the internet to empower patients with information while also using the internet to strengthen their professional network. These are amongst the most striking findings of the Edelman Indonesia healthcare provider survey. It tells a story of a country where the internet is becoming critical for both physicians’ work and patients’ empowerment.

Our second Healthcare Professional Survey indicated that 4 out of 5 physicians in Jakarta – and 3 out of 4 physicians in Bandung, Surabaya and Medan – trawl the internet for work-related information in preference to other information sources. The survey also found that 38% GPs and Specialists now prefer recommending patients to use the internet for additional health and wellness information. In comparison, 32% of them are recommending peer professionals.

It seems that physicians these days recognize the importance of online information in empowering patients to make informed decisions regarding their health. Amidst shortage of physicians, limited consultation time and increasing number of patients, online sources can make an impact on one’s health.

By contrast, however, physicians’ use of medical representatives (‘MedReps’) has become more limited just to new medicines (in contrast perhaps to the broader engagement many pharmaceutical firms hope their MedReps can lead). Other than within the limited area of drug information (64% of doctors surveyed used MedReps as a source), pharma MedReps were only a preferred source of information by 4% of surveyed doctors in diagnostic trends; 3% for new treatments and 4% for general health. These findings suggest pharmaceutical businesses may wish to review how they equip their medical representatives with stronger complimentary online media assets to increase the quality of their engagement with physicians in Indonesia.

Healthcare providers in Indonesia operate with the physician market in mind. While it is especially true in the country where patients pay for their medication out of pocket (at least until the Universal Healthcare Coverage kicks in 2014), the empowered and informed patient market is also rising in importance. Patient education through disease awareness, for instance, is now a crucial element to enhance doctor–patient communication.

While observing the highest standards of compliance, it is clear that both doctors and their patients are avid and sophisticated consumers of online healthcare information who can benefit from accurate online sources that can be accessed from variety of devices. Later this week, we will be posting more about how our survey suggests online communications in the healthcare sector can be used within Indonesia.

Urgent call to action on Universal Healthcare Socialization: the other big area of our findings – which caused much comment and productive dialogue with government officials at today’s launch of the results, was the relatively low scores amongst surveyed doctors regarding the Universal Healthcare system (SJSN in Indonesian) due to begin in 2014. Just 3% of doctors in Jakarta (and 5% of doctors in other cities surveyed said they fully understood the system; with 63% of Jakarta doctors (57% of doctors in other cities) saying they were in doubt about universal healthcare or did not understand the system due to go live in just nine months’ time. This underlines Edelman’s call to action for government and other stakeholders to work together to agree a single platform of consistent messages to reassure and raise awareness amongst doctors (who will, of course, be the front line in educating patients about the new system!).

The 2013 Healthcare Professional Survey is the second such survey carried out by Edelman in Indonesia; and the first in collaboration with the Public Health Division, Faculty of Medicine at the University of Gadjah Mada, to discover the behavior of General Practitioners (GPs) and Specialists when seeking and disseminating healthcare information. The survey, part of Edelman Indonesia’s contribution to healthcare industry stakeholders to improve the quality of their mutual engagement, was carried out by face-to-face interviews with 421 GPs and medical specialists in four big cities: Jakarta, Bandung; Medan and Surabaya in samples weighted by population; experience of doctors and discipline.

For excerpt of the survey, please visit www.slideshare.net. A copy of our press release can also be found here.