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Health Care

Indonesia e-doctor app connects patients to 500 hospitals

Conglomerate Sinar Mas offers free service, for now

Sinar Mas heiress and SehatQ CEO Linda Wijaya sees enormous room for growth in the Indonesian health care market. (Photo by Jun Suzuki)

JAKARTA -- A startup led by a scion of Indonesian conglomerate Sinar Mas Group has developed a service for consulting with doctors via smartphone, an innovation made necessary by the Southeast Asian country's shortage of physicians and clinics.

The SehatQ app connects with doctors who dispense advice after being told symptoms. The patient will be referred to the nearest specialist as needed.

The app will initially be free to use, with plans to monetize it via service fees or pharmaceutical sales.

"As like any startup, we need to focus on growth," Sinar Mas heiress and SehatQ CEO Linda Wijaya told Nikkei. "Because only from growth, you gather your brand awareness, your presence, and you also build credibility."

Indonesia had about 3.7 medical doctors per 10,000 people in the latest available World Health Organization data, against almost 26 in the U.S. and around 17 in China. Indonesians must endure lengthy waits at the hospital.

Indonesia's health care spending of about $112 per capita comes in far below the approximately $9,800 of the U.S. So there is huge potential for growth here, Wijaya said.

SehatQ will employ 40 doctors in-house within the year to offer remote consultations. Partnerships are planned with 500 hospitals, or roughly 20% of the total, so that patients can easily schedule appointments from their mobile phones.

Tie-ups with Sinar Mas health insurance and hospital businesses are also on the table. Wijaya expressed hope that health care will become a pillar of Sinar Mas.

Wijaya, granddaughter of the late Sinar Mas founder Eka Tjipta Widjaja, recently stepped down as the head of group member Asia Pulp & Paper to establish new businesses.

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