Countries in Central and Eastern Europe display significant local differences in their healthcare systems and the delivery of healthcare services. Aging populations and the increase in chronic epidemic diseases shifted the focus at Philips to health and healthcare and the company relies on the latest developments in digitization, big data and artificial intelligence to design solutions for a healthy future.
Set up 128 years ago by Gerard Philips and his father Frederik, Philips started out as a family business. Their first products were the Philips light bulbs, which went on to change history. Up until that time, mainly oil lamps were used for lighting purposes, carrying the risk of fire and polluting the air. Factorymade, affordable lamps and light bulbs not only eliminated these risks, but also allowed people to work longer or educate themselves in the winter months. Other products soon followed. Over the last century the Philips product range included for example screens, televisions, video recorders and players, and mobile phones.
Focusing on health
About ten years ago, Philips started to focus on health and healthy lifestyle. As the company had previously been active in the field of medical technology, the management decided to focus primarily on products improving the quality of life and health care, says Reinier Schlatmann, Philips CEO in Central and Eastern Europe. Statistical data show that the population is aging and that humans face an increase in chronic epidemic non-infectious diseases. Innovations offered by Philips are related to healthy diets, the science of sleep, early diagnosis of serious diseases, such as cancer, and home care. Digitization in health care is an important trend allowing the hospitalization period to be kept to a minimum as the patient can be treated and monitored at home. “Healthcare professionals are very open to using new technologies. In each country in the region, I have experienced something unique, a ‘best practice’. In Estonia for example, the healthcare data is 100% digitized, Montenegro has the lowest mortality rate in the world, and Poland has excellent cardiac care,” Schlatmann notes.
The power of digitization
Digital technology makes it easier for doctor and patient to connect. Patients can share data with their doctor without visiting a hospital, and hospitals can share information among themselves. Doctors don’t need to go through long medical histories, all essentials are included in the digital record, which speeds up the diagnostic-therapeutic process. Digitization contributes to improving the availability of care in places with decreased accessibility to healthcare providers and helps people with reduced mobility. In intensive care units, digitalization and artificial intelligence help analyze data and monitor patients based on the evaluation of a high number of cases with similar findings thus contributing to the safety of the patients in the ICU. Digitization
will facilitate laboratory diagnostics, for example by automating the evaluation of biopsy samples. Final interpretation is up to doctors, but artificial intelligence can draw attention to specific elements and save time for doctors to concentrate on their patients.
Many Philips solutions are based on artificial intelligence. For instance, in the United States, Philips is using an application that estimates the risk of falls in the elderly based on data about a certain type of behavior. A bracelet-like device recognizes when the person wearing it falls and the device calls for help. “These applications have been analyzing data for fifteen years, so Philips is now able to predict the likelihood of a person falling in the next twenty days with good accuracy. It seems unreal, but by means of artificial intelligence it is possible to prevent such falls. Therefore, I am convinced that artificial intelligence can overcome the lack of medical personnel. It will never replace the doctors, but it will help them tremendously,” Schlatmann says.
Solutions for the future
Many countries are struggling with a lack of doctors and the rising age of healthcare professionals. According to the executive, the solution to this issue is offered by innovative technologies, digitization and artificial intelligence. For instance, partially pre-evaluated analysis can save time for a physician, artificial intelligence and mobile applications can be used for screening and prevention even at home. Telemedicine can positively influence care for patients in rural areas with less access to healthcare facilities and it can help the elderly, pregnant women or young parents to reach out for care without having to travel to a medical facility.
People love technological solutions
Philips has published the Future Health Index for four years. This year’s edition, which is based on a survey of 15,000 individuals and more than 3,100 health care professionals across 15 countries, focuses on the impact of digital technology on healthcare professionals and patients. Schlatmann emphasizes that while a few years ago, medical professionals had reservations when it came to digital technology and artificial intelligence, this has changed rapidly. Doctors are increasingly willing to use these technologies, seeing the benefits they bring. According to the Index, 76% of surveyed healthcare professionals are using digital health records (DHRs), 61% use telehealth and 46% use AI technologies in their hospital/practice. Patients also like digital technology because it provides them with information about their health and because these technologies help them receive better care and therapy. 63% of individuals, who do not currently have access to their Digital Health Records (DHR) said they would like to have access to them while 82% of people who have access to their DHR rate their personal experience with the care they receive as good, very good or excellent, compared to 66% without access to their DHR. “This shows a clear shift toward openness to eHealth technologies. We in Philips aim to be a partner for healthcare professionals and patients on their journey to digital healthcare,” Schlatmann concludes.