AMSTERDAM Dutch Philips Electronics is betting it can help doctors monitor patients remotely to keep an aging population healthier and battle rising medical costs.
The hospital equipment maker and the Netherlands' largest health insurer, Achmea, said on Wednesday they would work together and invest several millions in the next five years in home monitoring healthcare in the Dutch market.
Home monitoring is at the heart of Philips's home healthcare unit, which reported more than 1 billion euros of revenue in 2008 and is expected to grow at double digit percentage rates in the coming years.
The unit provides services and products that help doctors monitor patients' health remotely but also offers products for people who suffer from respiratory diseases for use at home.
"It is all about expanding care beyond its current boundaries, like the hospital," Walter van Kuijen, general manager at Philips' home monitoring healthcare, told Reuters.
Philips estimates the global home healthcare market at about 100 billion euros, of which the company targets about 5 billion euros.
The company considers the deal with Achmea, which has about a 30 percent share of the Dutch health insurance market, as a pilot project that eventually could be rolled out in Europe, saving hospitals millions of euros.
EuroStat figures show that the population of people over 65 will increase within the 27 countries of the European Union to 50 percent by 2050.
"This will be accompanied by a rise in the amount of diseases and they will become chronic and need continuous treatment and monitoring," Van Kuijen said.
He added that at the same time with the aging of population fewer doctors and nurse will be available in the hospitals. "This is why the system will have to change."
Philips started monitoring services for heart failure patients 11 years ago in the United States. It found out that about a third of patients suffering from heart failure were released from hospitals, only to return within one to two months.
"We can reduce that amount by 20-70 percent, improving clinical outcomes and potentially save millions of euros," Van Kuijen said.
Philips considers heart patients and people suffering from diabetes as key targets of its home monitoring services, but is also exploring other areas.
"We need devices that collect information about the patient, an infrastructure to get that information to the physician or provide software that can triage that data and thus enable the physician to focus on patients that need attention."
The home healthcare market has been attracting a number of technology companies in recent months.
In April, GE and chipmaker Intel Corp joined forces to develop devices targeting the market, while Google and IBM have teamed up on software to move data from remote personal medical devices into Google Health and other personal health records.
(Editing by Steve Orlofsky)