Smart Health interviewed the Global Head of Digital of Philips Healthcare at the eHealth Week 2016, held in Amsterdam last June, a day after the launching of the first edition of the Future Health Index (FHI) made by the Dutch company
Philips has recently launched the first ‘Future Health Index’. Which has been the purpose of this study?
The Future Health Index is part of the bigger journey that we run as Philips, which is helping people to improve their lives. A part of that is to support the transformation of healthcare. You see at the eHealth Week all kinds of solutions and innovations, but this transformation is also about understanding how people in their countries think about healthcare, not just the consumer and the patients but also healthcare professionals. If you have better understanding you can better plan the transformation. That’s why we did the Future Health Index, to better understand the perception of people in each country where we did the survey, so data can be used to compare countries and use them for the transformation.
We are in the ‘big data age’, but sharing data between patients and professionals is still a challenge. Is it just a generational issue or are there more reasons?
The big topic there is that data today live in silos. There are different ways for tracking the activity in your health, you may have a tracking device on your wrist or an app on your phone, but all of that data live in silos. Even if you wanted to share that data you still have an issue, so bringing that data together is a first step. At Philips we believe that if we bring all that data together and give you access to it, and then we will have a good foundation to start building new scenarios and start sharing that data. Our belief is that you as a person, as a patient and as a consumer have ownership of your own data and want to manage your own data and be in control of who has access to your data. That is a very easy thing to say but a very difficult thing to achieve, so we need to investigate how best to do that and make sure that the right doctors and healthcare professionals have access to the right data at the right time.
Bureaucracy and regulation are seen by many professionals as a barrier to implement connected health solutions. What is needed to change that?
What we see is that rules and regulations between countries differ a lot and that makes it harder to deploy scalable global solutions. Also, it can be tricky to handle the fact that you as a person travel between regions and countries. I think there needs to be collaboration with the policy-makers to first develop world standards that are applicable, and then organize the systems. That would be a big step forward.
“We cannot fix the big challenges on our own; we always need to work together”
Which eHealth solutions are you showcasing at the eHealth Week?
We try to show a number of innovations, like a research lab and virtual reality experiments where you can walk around a hospital yourself, things that could be important in the future for hospital planning or training purposes. We also have products that are about to come to market and products that are already in the market. What we showcased is a number of innovations that bring care closer to the patient. One example of that is the Minicare, which can do a blood test in a couple of minutes so you don’t have to be brought to the hospital in an emergency rush. Another example is our ultrasound device, Lumify, which is miniaturized so you can connect it to your tablet, which will then allow you to perform an ultrasound outside the hospital setting, no matter where the patient is situated. But it’s not just the products we are showing here, it is also about the collaborations that we seek in the industry, and the new scenarios that we build together with our partners.
You also have presented several collaborations with institutions and industry partners to implement eHealth programs.
We collaborate with KSYOS, the largest Dutch telemedical center. In mental health we are working together with the Trimboos Institute in the Netherlands to create an e-mental health companion, centered on patients, in order for them to be more independent at home. There is a lot of variation in partnerships, and at an event like eHealth Week there are many opportunities to discuss collaboration even more. The reality of the big challenges we have in healthcare is that we cannot fix them on our own; we always need to work together.
Which one of these connected or digital health solutions do you think will be essential in the near future?
That is a hard question to answer. It depends on the person itself. If you are a healthy person you have a different expectation from connected health than if you are dealing with a chronic disease. If you have a chronic illness, there are several tools you can use to better keep track of your health which will support in giving advice when it’s needed, such as for diabetic patients. If you are healthy, you need different kinds of tools. What we try to bring is the collaboration between the patients, their families and the care network in order to find them better care solutions.
The transformation is also about understanding how people in their countries think about healthcare
In your opinion, which has been the main take-away of the eHealth Week 2016?
What I find very inspiring is that I’ve seen the two worlds come together. On the one hand, the traditional HIMSS audience, the professionals of the healthcare IT world. And on the other hand, there are the policy makers, people representing governments around Europe, the health ministries. That connection is actually very important and it has been very inspiring to witness that happening.
First Future Health Index by Philips
Royal Philips launched the results of the first edition of its Future Health Index (FHI), an extensive international study which explores how countries around the world are positioned to meet long-term global health challenges through integration and connected care technologies. In order to improve the quality, access and affordability of care, healthcare systems are increasingly shifting their focus from hospital-based acute care to new models of integrated, coordinated care along the ‘health continuum,’ from healthy living and prevention to diagnosis, treatment and home care.
Examining the perceptions, behaviours and attitudes of patients and healthcare professionals, the Future Health Index focuses on three important factors necessary to move toward a more integrated system of healthcare: access to healthcare; integration of the current health system; and adoption of connected health technology devices and systems.
While the data illustrates the growing opportunity for digital technology to drive healthcare transformation, the Future Health Index also reveals varying levels of readiness across markets and unveils opportunities for improvement to encourage broader user adoption globally.
Three-quarters (76%) of healthcare professionals in developed markets agree their patients have access to the treatments needed for current and future medical conditions, versus just over half (58%) of those in emerging markets. However, emerging markets such as South Africa and the UAE appear to be leading the way in terms of connected device adoption, and more healthcare professionals in emerging economies expect connected devices to be used to manage health in the future.
The study, which will be run annually, was conducted in partnership with an independent global market research firm in 13 countries in recent months. More than 2,600 healthcare professionals and 25,000 patients were questioned in Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Japan, The Netherlands, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, UAE, U.K. and U.S.
Assigning each country surveyed an average score out of 100, the FHI report shows the perceived state of readiness of each market to benefit from integration across healthcare systems. The United Arab Emirates achieved the highest score – 65.3 – among participating nations, with The Netherlands and China also coming in high, with scores of 58.9 and 58.1, while Germany, Brazil and Japan received the lowest scores in terms of readiness, at 54.5, 50.6 and 49.0, respectively.
Other key findings from the FHI study showed:
- Data is proliferating, but data sharing continues to be a challenge.
- Technology is a generational issue, for both healthcare professionals and patients.
- Patients and doctors are divided in perceptions of patients’ ability to monitor their own health.
- Integration and data sharing are worth pursuing.
- Bureaucracy is seen as a major stumbling block.
- Cost, training and data security concerns are standing in the way.
By Jose L. Cánovas