Recent years have seen tremendous advances in various sectors of the tech industry, including artificial intelligence, speech recognition, cloud and mobile computing, the internet of things (IoT), and wearables. Many industries have taken advantage of these trends and improved the services and applications they provide to their customers.
We’re already seeing some of these changes in areas such as hospitality (Airbnb), transportation (Uber), entertainment (Netflix), and information access (Google), where services have become more personalized, 24/7 available, and much more efficient in comparison to previous decades.
Healthcare is one of the sectors that stand to benefit a lot from these technologies, which could have a direct impact on the lives of billions of people across the world. However, the health-tech and med-tech industries are faced with several challenges that make it very difficult to keep up with advances in tech.
Fortunately, leading organizations are finding solutions to mitigate the risks and barriers of adopting new technologies, and making sure patients, clinicians, and everyone involved in the care cycle can benefit from the latest innovations.
Bringing together legacy and cutting-edge technology
Unlike consumer devices, medical devices are made to last for years, even decades. Hospitals make important investments in medical devices such as CT and MRI scanners and expect them to work for many years. Therefore, much of the equipment installed in hospitals were made at a time when some of today’s technological breakthroughs hadn’t happened. Therefore, they stand to benefit immensely by being complemented with cloud services, artificial intelligence, and some of the other technologies that have become commonplace in other industries.
“We are seeking to continuously engage with our customers in order to fulfill their clinical and operational needs. Instead of the more traditional model where devices and equipment are sold and occasionally a service engineer visits the customer for repairs,” said Serge Hermans, VP and Head of Research EU Personal Care and Connected Care. “With connectivity, data analytics, and artificial intelligence we are now able to significantly deliver more value and continuously engage with our customers.”
“If you have a patient monitor measuring vital signs, the physician has to interpret the data and needs to have a lot of context,” Hermans said. “You can upload the data in the cloud and combine it with hundreds of thousands of patients who have similar histories and provide the right clinical decision support to the caregiver.”
With today’s technology, it is possible to turn a patient monitor into a smart, connected, software-defined device that can be extended with algorithms and analytics tools over time. But for this to happen, you need to create the link between the device and the cloud.
Philips is tackling this problem by complementing existing devices with companion systems that can extract device data and send it to the cloud for analysis. One interesting example is a camera, as part of an MRI scanner, that uses video analysis, where deep learning algorithms monitor and analyze the patient. The system is helping reduce the time the patient spends in the scanner, which eases patient discomfort and improves the productivity of the hospital.
At the same time, the company is creating a new generation of systems that are software-defined from the get-go. This is part of Philips’ broader push into becoming a provider of healthcare software as a service (SaaS) that covers the entire health continuum, from the apps running on hospital devices, homes, and wearables, to the analytics and AI software that runs in the cloud.
“Software-defined systems contain hardware with a relatively long lifetime and software that can be updated regularly,” Hermans said. “This enables us to make sure that the systems are always at their peak performance and secure. Software upgradability also allows for the introduction of new functionality on existing systems. Which increases the lifetime of that system.”
The immediate benefit of the move toward the cloud and software-defined systems goes to the end users of health and medical technologies, the patients and caregivers who will be able to receive new features and updates much more quickly than in the previous model.
“We still have our hardware excellence advantage, but we’re also moving toward becoming a digital and software informatics company,” Hermans said.
Addressing the fragmented healthcare landscape
Thanks to advances in med tech, health tech, wearables, and personal health technologies, there is a ton of health data that can be used to train AI models, perform individual and population health analysis, and carry out other tasks that can improve care and well-being.
However, health data is extremely fragmented, stored in hospitals, clinics, health insurance records, personal devices, fitness applications, etc. Without breaking the silos and bringing all these sources of data together, we can’t take full advantage of the opportunities.
“The data landscape for healthcare is dynamic,” said Tanuj Gupta, Business Leader in Operational Informatics at Philips. “There are so many new sources of rich data that are being added: voice data, real-time feeds from wearables, new medical devices, new treatment methods, and new diseases for example. Because of that, data interoperability isn’t a problem ‘to be solved’ but a problem that needs to be continuously managed. This is a challenge, but it is also an opportunity.”
If you can manage all this data, you can use it to create new tools for preventive care, diagnostic assistance, treatment selection, analytics, or operational improvements, Gupta says. For example, clinicians can use data to perform early screening for diseases like stroke or cancer or to help with identifying tumors and anatomical features on an image. It can also help create efficiency in the healthcare system with tools to assist with scheduling, protocol selection, or staffing, and automated tools for report creation or revenue cycle issues like prior authorization and billing. For imaging equipment, data can be used to create AI that helps speed up the image acquisition process, thereby reducing a patient’s exposure to radiation.
“We can’t build these applications if we don’t have interoperable data,” Gupta says. “The more data we generate in healthcare, the more we’re going to need companies that can help us manage interoperability and find insights that bring better care to our global population.”
This is one of the main projects that Philips has invested in. Philips has developed the HealthSuite Platform which provides components and technology infrastructure to quickly develop scalable solutions. Philips is also collaborating with cloud service providers to enable cloud-based solution offerings leveraging features of the existing HealthSuite Platform. Data and AI are a core part of these solutions, making them insightful and giving the required impetus to cutting-edge healthcare transformation.
“We recognize the value of managing data for interoperability in healthcare and have made extensive efforts to work on this problem,” Gupta says. “We are subsequently building practical tools on top of that interoperability, including analytics, virtual imaging applications, and workflow applications to make care providers more efficient.”
According to Gupta, Philips also aims to provide the infrastructure needed for deploying AI diagnostics that have received regulatory clearance into its imaging systems, whether those algorithms were developed by Philips or by another company. Data interoperability will be a big enabler of that effort.
“Our job is to improve the lives of billions of people by 2030. To reach that, we must find ways to utilize our data better, because insights from data can lead to new diagnostic and treatment tools as well as help us automate repetitive tasks away from an already over-burdened workforce. This in turn will lead to better patient outcomes and a better patient experience, ” Gupta says.
Overcoming the challenges of cultural transformation
As the healthcare industry transitions toward digital transformation, the companies that are providing the hardware and software must also go through a transformation. Philips has shaped its digital transformation strategy around the Quadruple Aim framework, which is composed of four goals:
- Improved patient experience
- Better health outcomes
- Improved staff experience
- Lower cost of care
“With changing needs of the healthcare industry and deeper penetration of informatics in healthcare, Philips recognizes it is imperative to provide solutions across the care continuum from prevention to treatment whilst fulfilling the goals of the Quadruple aim,” said Geetha M, Capability and Excellence Lead, Data & AI at Philips Center of Excellence.
The transformation from a product to a solutions company impacts all aspects of the organization, the organization structure, technology, platforms, processes, IT, Q&R, marketing and sales.
“The biggest transformation in the solution journey is the customer-first mindset. A solution begins with a customer need and is iteratively developed to bring in the expected results,” Geetha says.
The customer relationship for a solution has the characteristics of a partnership. This implies that the engineering, marketing, and sales teams work close together to deliver and maintain a solution for a customer. At the same time, the company needs to develop cross-functional and end-to-end teams that can handle the evolving and shifting needs of customer-first solutions.
“Philips has embarked on this journey of becoming a solutions company which has triggered the digital transformation internally. The scalability of a solution can be feasible only if the technology platform used is scalable, meets the needs of a customer, and the architecture is adaptable for easy customization,” Geetha says.
In addition to developing the tools and infrastructure for developing and delivering solutions, Philips has also embraced the changes it needs to bring to its culture and people capabilities.
It all starts with managing the development of people capability along key dimensions, including job/role definitions, talent strategy addressing hiring/upskilling or re-skilling, leadership and communication.
“Philips is addressing all these dimensions to develop people capabilities for the digital transformation across the company and improve the capability maturity within the organization,” Geetha said.
Philips has launched several initiatives to make sure learning and sharing experience remains a key tenet across the organization. Some of these projects include learning curriculums that have attracted more than 4,000 learners across the organization. Conferences and workshops are held by its Data & AI Center of Excellence, where hundreds of engineers, product managers, UX designers, and people of different backgrounds come together to share their experiences and learn from each other.
These efforts are helping the company achieve higher levels of maturity by focusing on aspects like skill-building, helping leadership roles to adapt to new technologies, derive insights, and strategize.
“Shifting the mindset and managing the change necessitates transformation from the siloed approach to working and thinking end to end; from customer need to customer delight; from waterfall model to an agile model, thereby realizing outcomes faster and better. This way of working also helps keep pace with fast development in technology,” Geetha said. “Finally, this transformation is realized by a rigorous change management process, enabled by continuous dialogue, communication, and focused sessions steered by the leaders.”
How have these efforts paid off? Philips has delivered many data- and AI-based solutions addressing the quadruple aims across the care continuum.
“These solutions encompass all our businesses, which is proof of our commitment to delight our customers by leveraging the best-in-class technology across the organization,” Geetha says.
As our technology infrastructure continues to evolve, so must the companies that are helping develop the tools to provide healthcare to billions of people. Companies that embrace continuous change, learning and innovation are better positioned to meet the shifting needs of the healthcare industry. As the health-tech industry catches up with trends in technology, it will be fascinating to see what awaits us in the future.
Philips is solving informatics challenges; bringing together legacy and cutting-edge technology and creating solutions that innovate the future of healthcare. If you’re passionate about improving lives through meaningful innovation, why not use your skills to make a world of difference? Find out more about their tech careers here.