Mother–Daughter Team Boosts HTM Profession in Indonesia with e-Learning

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Disclaimer: all credit goes to Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (including the picture and the content of this page)

A dynamic mother–daughter team in Indonesia has become a force in training the next generation of biomedical engineers, using e-learning as a cornerstone of their work.

Their two-decade campaign to elevate the profession started serendipitously. “I had been a housewife for 15 years,” said Yoke Saadia Swito, a medical doctor by training. With her children growing up, she wanted to try something new. That opportunity came when the first biomedical engineering program in the country launched at Institut Teknologi Bandung. She seized that opportunity, becoming one of the first two biomedical engineers in Indonesia.

Her daughter, Allya Paramita Koesoema, followed in her footsteps, learning alongside her mother as a high school student and then earning undergraduate and master’s degrees in biomedical engineering. As she worked with physicians on emerging telemedicine applications early in her career, “I actually realized that a significant problem in the field and in the nation at that time was not really the technical side of things, but it was the solutional and management side.” Her response: earning a Ph.D. in business administration and management.

E-Learning for an Island Nation

In 1996, when Koesoema was still an undergraduate, the two launched the first e-learning initiative in Indonesia, an anatomy and physiology course for biomedical engineering students—Swito’s specialty as a physician. They’ve come a long way since they worked feverishly in their home to hand-draw illustrations and diagrams for that course.

“We know that there is a huge need for biomedical engineers in Indonesia,” Koesoema said. To answer that need, the two—both now university lecturers—continue to develop a portfolio of e-learning courses to train healthcare technology management (HTM) professionals. E-learning courses make biomedical engineering study more accessible in Indonesia, a nation of more than 17,000 islands, many of which are remote. They believe e-learning could serve as a model for other countries with similar geographic and resource challenges.

Swito and Koesoema are broadening the reach of e-learning courses, creating credit sharing arrangements and an association with the six Indonesian universities that now offer biomedical engineering degrees. They’ve secured significant grant funding nationally and internationally to research and expand their initiative.

They’re also raising the visibility and career prospects for biomedical engineers. At their university, biomedical engineering had long been a specialty of electrical engineering. Three years ago, it became an independent program, doubling enrollment to 30 incoming students every year. They also reinvigorated a dormant professional association, the Indonesia Biomedical Society, which Swito founded some years ago.

But in this still-emerging field in Indonesia, “hospitals don’t know yet what to do with them,” Koesoema said. So she and her mother are addressing hurdles by building relationships with government officials and regulators, including incorporating government participation in e-learning courses.

AAMI’s certification program may be on the horizon as well. The two recently met with Brad Schoener, vice president of innovation of AAMI, and they are very interested in certification training, which they believe will further boost the profession.

A New Endeavor: mHealth

Not ones to rest on their accomplishments, Swito and Koesoema are now rolling out a suite of mobile apps connecting midwives to expectant and new mothers. “Indonesia still has quite a high mother mortality rate and child mortality rate,” Swito said. “It’s a big problem that can be solved with modest technology,” given that most Indonesians own mobile phones.

The apps provide midwives with a case management tool and access to continuous data on maternal history and health. Most midwives rely on paper records, which are not always accurate or up to date. For expectant and new mothers, the app offers a knowledge base about healthy practices. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Humanitarian Activities Committee provided funding and technical assistance for this project.

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