By Christina Farr and Thomas Escritt
AMSTERDAM/SAN FRANCISCO, June 26 (Reuters) - Dutch healthcare and lighting company Philips said on Thursday it was teaming up with Salesforce, one of the first cloud-computing companies in the United States, to offer online management of chronic diseases.
The venture will involve a cloud-based software platform that will take data fed from networked medical devices in homes and hospitals to allow nurses and doctors to monitor the health of hundreds of patients simultaneously.
The companies said they would launch two new medical applications, Philips eCareCoordinator and Philips eCare Companion, later in the summer as part of the partnership.
Philips’ chief executive Frans van Houten told journalists in Amsterdam the services would make it easier and cheaper to monitor the health of patients.
“Seventy-five percent of healthcare costs spent in the U.S. are spent on chronic diseases,” he said.
In a demonstration of the platform, the companies showed how a nurse could remotely use a networked weighing scale and a pill dispensing box to assist elderly patients.
Van Houten said he expected insurance companies would be keen to fund the use of networked healthcare devices because of potential cost savings.
“There’s a huge amount of money in the healthcare ecosystem; it’s 17 percent of U.S. GDP,” he said. “But we believe there’s a lot of waste in that ecosystem.”
Salesforce Chief Executive Marc Benioff said the technology was enabling the industry to connect to, care for, and engage with patients and each other in a new way.
Philips, which has been transforming itself from an electronics to a healthcare company, said in the future it could combine data from its professional products, including hospital scanners and intensive care monitors, with information from its consumer healthcare devices to monitor patients’ health.
“We are already a big data company,” said Jeroen Tas, head of Philips’ Healthcare Informatic Solutions group.
Salesforce said the software conforms to security and privacy rules under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA.
Over the past year or so, Salesforce and other cloud pioneers such as Workday have faced greater competition from startups and major players like Microsoft and Oracle, and are seeking new revenue opportunities.
In April, Salesforce unveiled a strategy to target specific sectors, like healthcare. It tapped Vivek Kundra, the former U.S. chief information officer, to lead that effort.
Kundra said in a telephone interview that Salesforce’s push into the health care industry would focus on lowering costs, keeping consumers healthy with the help of technology and tools, and helping patients manage chronic disease. (Editing by Anthony Deutsch and Jane Merriman)