Philips CEO: uptake of connected care products progressing slowly

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The adoption of connected technologies in healthcare remains limited and is progressing slowly, despite the promise they hold for cutting medical costs by preventing illness, the chief executive of Philips said on Wednesday.

Frans van Houten, President and CEO of Royal Philips attends the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

The conclusion is one of several derived from a major survey the company is publishing this week, but the question is not academic for Philips: it has staked its future on the healthcare market after spinning off its lighting operations last year, and it expects connected care to be one of the major pillars of its future growth.

Connected care includes live electronic communication between patients and doctors and remote patient monitoring.

“Healthcare is a conservative marketplace,” CEO Frans van Houten told Reuters in a phone interview. “In the finance world people adopted the internet twenty years ago, in healthcare that is (just) happening now. ”

Philips, which generated 17.4 billion euros ($19.4 billion)in sales from its healthcare operations in 2016, expects rising life expectancy and associated chronic diseases to lead to growing demand for devices that allow patients to stay at home while their data is remotely monitored by doctors and carers.

Comparable sales growth of Philips’ own connected care businesses slowed to 1 per cent in the first quarter of this year. However, Van Houten said he remains optimistic about prospects for the division.

“The second quarter will be better”, he predicted. “I remain convinced of the compelling case for connected care.”

He said one major obstacle for the adoption of connected devices and platforms is the design of most insurance systems.

“Insurers reimburse critical care, not the avoidance of incidents. Therefore investments are not targeted towards prevention.”

Patients themselves are usually eager to adopt new technology, he said.

“Concerns about the possible side-effects of connected care are swept aside by the expectations of the benefits when people are confronted with a chronic disease themselves,” he said.

“Resistance that could be privacy-related completely disappears.”

Philips’ survey, which looks at health systems in 19 countries around the world, is to be published Thursday.

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Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Toby Sterling and Toby Chopra