When the coronavirus began to spread in Asia at the beginning of 2020, queries about the virus and the disease it causes—now called COVID-19—skyrocketed on the internet. People wanted to know how and where it was spreading, and they were seeking ways to prevent infection.
Indonesia confirmed two cases on March 2, and the number surged to 19 by March 9. With the threat of infection in Indonesia, and plenty of disinformation and misinformation online, people in the country have been turning to healthcare apps to seek reliable answers to their questions.
Several Indonesia-based healthcare startups contacted by KrASIA reported a spike in visits to COVID-19 related articles. Alodokter, for example, recorded two million visits just for their main information page for the novel coronavirus.
“We have many articles sitting on top of Google search result page, including some about coronavirus, which successfully top Google search’s main page ever since the first release of information about this virus,” said Alodokter medical marketing manager Abi Noya in an e-mail to KrASIA.
The Softbank-backed startup has been consistently updating information about SARS-CoV-2, as the virus is officially called, and COVID-19 in accordance with new updates from credible sources, such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alodokter also saw a rise in its number of app downloads and user interactions within the platform, like the platform’s feature that lets users chat with doctors.
However, Noya said that the higher level of activity was not prompted only by the COVID-19 outbreak, “but also from users’ needs to search and find health-related information easily.”
Aside from its own website and app, Alodokter disseminates information about COVID-19 in short video tutorials on TikTok. The clips cover subjects like how to wash your hands properly, as well as reminders to cover your face when you cough or sneeze.
Alodokter’s video series on TikTok has garnered popularity among social media users in Indonesia. Their video on washing hands, for example, has racked up 3.2 million views as of March 10.
“The short tutorial videos on TikTok are our attempt to spread useful health information in an easy and entertaining way. We hope that the relayed information can be easily remembered and understood,” Noya said.
Another popular Jakarta-based healthtech app, Halodoc, has also experienced an uptick in user activity. The company’s VP of marketing, Felicia Kaliwarang, said that searches for “coronavirus” has increased by 600% on the platform.
“Since the issue of COVID-19 broke out at the global level, we have released at least three pieces of educational content per day that are accessible to the public on the Halodoc platform,” Kaliwarang said.
To handle the boost in traffic, Halodoc has arranged for more doctors to be on standby on its platform to handle queries. At present, there are more than 22,000 doctors within Halodoc’s network.
Scalpers are taking advantage of a rush among the populace to secure face masks and hand sanitizer. Addressing the situation, Kaliwarang said Halodoc said these products will remain on Halodoc’s platform for sale, with stabilized prices that are cheaper than what’s normally charged on the market.
Doctors that log on to Alodokter and Halodoc have been trained to assist panicked users seeking help. They can recognize clinical symptoms during online communication, then provide advice accordingly. Nonetheless, this is not a replacement for an in-person consultation if a user’s condition is severe. For serious cases, the doctors steer users to medical facilities appointed by the Ministry of Health for proper treatment.
Alodokter added that they are currently on the final stage of development for a new feature that will be released soon. Noya believes that this new addition will be useful for doctors and users while facing the COVID-19 outbreak.
Around the world, many other healthtech startups are bolstering their services or rolling out new features for their users as the epidemic unfold. In China, for example, some companies utilize artificial intelligence and big data to measure body temperatures and track users’ movements using their smartphones.
Additional reporting by Khamila Mulia.