Global health IT provider Royal Philips has launched a slew of products this week at HIMSS' annual healthcare conference in Las Vegas. The Amsterdam-based company introduced two new tools in its cloud-based HealthSuite platform for acute care telehealth and patient logistics management, and announced that New York Langone Health's department of pathology will integrate its genomics workspace into its electronic health record.
The new products, built on Philips' software-as-a-service model, are aimed at lowering deployment costs and improving efficiencies for its hospital customers, according to executives. But Philips, which has decadeslong experience in tele-ICU and a comfortable command over the market, continues to consider what provider clients will desire in the COVID-19 era and beyond, according to Roy Jakobs, Philips' head of connected care.
Jakobs originally planned to attend HIMSS in person, but being located in Amsterdam decided not to make the international trip to Nevada as COVID-19 cases continue to rise worldwide.
Still, Healthcare Dive caught up with the digital health veteran via phone on the sidelines of the massive health conference to talk about hospital tech adoption, the importance of unleashing data to enable collaboration and how Philips tries to ensure its tools free up medical workers to practice at the top of their licenses, instead of adding more electronic burden.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
HEALTHCARE DIVE: Walk me through Philips' announcements at HIMSS. Why are the areas of acute care telehealth and patient logistics of particular interest to Philips and its clients?
ROY JAKOBS: Starting high level, what we have seen breaking off as some big themes in the health space, and especially also propelled by COVID, are collaboration and increased need to use data and technology to accelerate collaboration across care settings and in between different layers in the health ecosystem.
That then connects to our approach, where we look at how we can support health systems in the ongoing change of healthcare delivery. And that's not only through technology application. It's also how do we think through mapping challenges in the health system, how do we support the transformation and the adoption of technology, and therefore to a much wider application in the daily routine, and therefore driving to impact patient outcomes and the efficiencies of the system.
Secondly, it's about precision care and how, especially in this very constrained resource world, you can optimize for that.
We have seen really huge need for a better orchestration of care, both in the interest of the patient as well as for the best use of individual care settings and approaches. But that can only happen if you have the right infrastructure — infrastructure meaning data, but also hardware and software — available to support you and the caregivers to provide care beyond the hospital walls.
And that actually then also connects to our acute care telehealth space where we have already been working for long, but now see an enhanced need. We are expanding, therefore, the breadth of our solutions beyond the core that we have always been working in, in the ICU, and building on the combination of the clinical and technical insights that we can provide to the infrastructure we offer.
And of course, because of what we see in bigger themes right now, a solution should be cloud-based. And that's where HealthSuite offers a cloud-based secure platform to do so, which also offers more business model flexibility, with the SaaS model that we can offer as part of it. And that helps us also address some of the cost need that we see, and how this can actually help phase out costs and facilitate some of the infrastructure investments that need to be made in a better way.
You alluded to end-to-end holistic care and how technology can help with that. How has COVID proved or challenged the value proposition of technology there?
JAKOBS: I think for us, the insight has been that technology — and a lot of technology that enables, for example, remote patient monitoring or virtual care in hospitals — has been available. But it was not yet adopted. And practitioners didn't really change their ideas, they didn't see the necessity and the value of it.
COVID actually forced them to change some of their routines and habits. They just could not continue practicing as they did. That helped them to experience new technology, but also see the value of it.
For us, that combination of experiencing and seeing how technology works, practicing it in a different way, and then also seeing the impact of it — how it can actually enhance care, improve efficiency and patient outcomes — that combination will drive further structural adoption.
But that also needs further reward by the broader system. It's not only the adoption, but also how does it financially yield a return, or is reimbursed, so that it's not penalized, but actually is supported in the appropriate manner. And as we see governments, states and also systems changing their remuneration policies around this, that also will drive therapy. So it's a combination of people adopting, seeing the change from a human perspective, as well as making the technology easier to be adopted and used, as well as how it's financially supported, to make technology sustainable and structurally feasible in the long run.
You were appointed head of connected care right before COVID-19 hit the U.S., in January 2020. How did the pandemic and its disruption cause Philips to rethink its priorities in healthcare?
JAKOBS: Where we really saw that COVID-19 acceleration kicking in, that spurred our own acceleration also.
Some of the launches that you see tend to an approach we have been talking about, right? That strategy around providing care across the entire healthcare continuum, including preventative in the consumer health environment, optimal care in the hospital and back in the home — that's something that now has really come to life. And to enable that, you need an IT infrastructure that allows data to travel freely.
Therefore cloud has been gaining a huge amount of speed and interest. We already had our cloud-based HealthSuite platform, but now more customers are seeing the impact and value of it. And in the business model around that, more outsiders are picking that up and we expect that to kind of float or drive moving forward.
Some of the themes we're readying around — resource management is very important, because resources are extremely scarce, whether it's financial, human, capability — and therefore you need to be very targeted, very precise, to apply them in the right context, in the right care setting. And that innovation in the right way that actually generates the best return.
That's something that we have also been working on. How can you enable that free data flows — interoperability, and that has become a big theme — how can they be easy to access. And then how can you work on the data? Because getting access to data is one thing, but then with AI and analytics, how you translate it into actionable insights meaningful for certain audiences.
That's what you see in our solutions, where you allow flexibility for the user to really get the relevant data displayed. Because there's also data overflow, and you need to help to almost shield some of the data, or present them in such a way that's actually for the audience. The radiologist, an ICU intervention, an administrator, the CIO — they all have different needs, and you need to be able to cater to that.
The last important point is security and data privacy. How do you ensure that as data becomes so much more important that also you actually treat that in a very trusted way, and therefore the security of HealthSuite and our solutions has been raising in importance, and also in interest of our customers.
On that subject of burnout, how is Philips making sure its products aren't inundating doctors with irrelevant data?
JAKOBS: We got very early-on experience in terms of the power of data, and how it can release some of the burden on the system with our acute care telehealth solutions, because we have a major stronghold in ICU with our monitors. So early on, we were working on how we can translate the data in a meaningful manner to the nurse, the doctor, the administrator — all the different audiences you serve in the hospital — and to actually relieve them from the burden of dealing with all the patient data.
How can you make it more easy to work with the data? How can you give access across care settings? And how can you do it in a virtual manner? So early on we worked on, what's the efficiency increase you can give, for example, to a nurse so they can instead of taking care of one to three patients, take care of seven to 10. That gives a much wider span to the system and its nurses, because they get the relevant info and right alarming at the right time, so they don't have to go in for routine checks constantly. You can give them a signal to intervene instead. That takes burden away.
So we got a lot of those learnings in acute care telehealth, and then extended those to patient flow and resource management across the system. If you start looking at a patient before they get to the hospital — well, what hospital should you send them to? If one is overburdened, you need to send them to another. You can do that upfront before they're at your doorstep.
That monitoring of the patient, determining where they can best be treated given capacity and capability, is something you can enable with some of the solutions we have. And that relieves burden.
Because honestly, one of our insights during COVID was that technology is not the limiting factor. The humans are. The people are the scarce resource. They either are in such high demand that there are not enough of them, or they're burning out given the high demand on them. So how can we release them? How can we create more space, more efficiencies? How can we expand the scope of work they can do?
And how can we actually help the system to deploy them in the best and most meaningful manner? And then, for a nurse or doctor, work becomes more meaningful because they feel more rewarded in what they do. Because they are going where they're most needed.
Prior to taking over connected care, you ran personal health for Philips. What's your take on rising consumer agency in managing their own health? And what do you think about this increasing decentralization of care delivery?
JAKOBS: To me it's both a necessity and a huge opportunity to spread care across really different care settings, and taking more charge of the ambulatory care settings at your disposal.
When that's technology-enabled, it's much more feasible, but also we get more data on the status of the patient and their therapy and — especially when you look at chronic care — providing it in a more meaningful manner.
So it's both an efficiency and effectiveness game. And I think that we are just starting to look at the potential of that.
It will require a change of practice. And there's a lot of room where we can do much more. But going back to what we saw in COVID-19, some of this was really propelled and I think will continue to gain adoption, especially if we work together better in the health ecosystem, and allow others to play with the data we have.
That's why we've been strongly advocating vendor neutrality, interoperability and getting to common standards. We have HealthSuite where we can derive our own insights from what is also being deployed to marketplaces and others, that can access that data for them.
That for me is the future of care, where in a secure and trusted manner, you can allow access to the right parties, and that will allow different delivery of care. And that change of delivery of care structurally over the long run is needed to deal with the capacity constraints of the system as is, where still the majority is hospital-based, and going into the most expensive care setting, which is ICU.
And that's a practice that we need to break. And we can break currently with new insights and new technologies.