Overview of AI in healthcare in Indonesia

By Jum’atil Fajar*

The Ministry of Research and Technology/National Research and Innovation Agency launched the National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence (NSAI) on August 10 2020. One of the priorities in this strategy is healthcare. 

Although the NSAI has been launched recently, research on artificial intelligence (AI) in the health sector in Indonesia has been carried out since 2000. At the time, researchers used an expert system to help diagnose tuberculosis. Expert systems are computer systems that mimic the decision-making abilities of a human expert. 

The expert system continued to be used by students majoring in technology and information in their research until 2019. The system is currently being used to help diagnose various infectious and non-communicable diseases such as pertussis, diphtheria, heart disease and stroke. Timotius Indra Kesuma, Director of Research, Development, and Innovation of the Indonesia Artificial Intelligence Association (IAIS), explained that expert systems do not require a lot of data. That is why this system is widely used by students in their final projects. Examples of the type of research being conducted using expert systems include the Deep Learning Approach for Classification of Hypertension Retinopathy, the result of doctoral research by Bambang Krismono Triwijoyo. This research is currently at prototype level.  

Herdiantri Sufriyana, the main researcher of “Artificial intelligence-assisted prediction of preeclampsia: Development and external validation of a nationwide health insurance dataset of the BPJS Kesehatan in Indonesia”, explained that sometimes research can be hindered by the lack of access to data.  Sufriyana relies on the use of the medical history of patients recorded between health service facilities (clinic/community health center/hospital). However, at the moment, health service facilities are not able to share patient data between them, creating a series of challenges. To overcome this problem, Sufriyana improved the model so that it could be used by health service facilities without having to access the patient's disease history in other facilities. Sufriyana plans to focus on preeclampsia prediction and will continue conducting clinical trials. 

The ability of AI to diagnose diseases is also being used in several health applications that can be accessed via smartphones or websites. The Prixa website can provide a diagnosis of the symptoms experienced by visitors and provide recommendations on what to do next. The Android app, PeduliLindungi, an application developed to assist relevant government agencies in tracking to stop the spread of COVID-19, has a chatbot that can be used to assess the disease’s symptoms. 

One startup in Indonesia, Widya Imersif Teknologi, has successfully developed a smartwatch with features that can measure body temperature, heart rate, blood oxygen levels, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, stress levels, geofencing, sleep monitoring to activity statistics and the number of calories burned. Most of these features take advantage of AI. 

Laboratory services that utilize AI have been carried out by Neurabot. This laboratory offers tele microscopy, where the hospital simply sends a photo file of laboratory samples and the AI technology helps to identify and count cells to predict cancer. 

In radiology services, AI has been used to diagnose lung disorders due to COVID-19. In addition, many hospitals are already using wireless endoscopy capsules. This technology is equipped with a marker indicator that makes it easy for doctors to mark the location of bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract. 

Nationally made COVID-19 detection technology that utilizes AI, GeNose, obtained a distribution permit from the Ministry of Health on December 2020. This technology can predict infection by simply analysing the breath of the person being examined. 

Progress in the use of AI in the health sector over the years has been considerable and the sector continues to flourish with the emergence of innovative startups and research. Yet, to take full advantage of their benefits, more needs to be done in order to be able to apply more of the research currently being conducted to health services. The launch of the NSAI is a welcome and awaited move on that direction as it will help provide the boost needed for this to happen.   

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*Jum’atil Fajar is an AI enthusiast. He holds a Masters degree in Health Sciences. He helped develop the hospital management information system. He currently manages the Hospital Accreditation Data Management Information System.