By Pieter Nota
Executive Vice President,
CEO Personal Health Businesses
The age of the ‘on demand’ consumer has inspired a lot of discussion in recent years. Industries such as retail, hospitality, media, government and education have all undergone a sharp and drastic period of change led by digital innovations.
Obviously, they are not the only ones. In healthcare, the world is changing too: the appetite for digital services is growing and so is the need for reliable information.
“Is bronchitis contagious?” and “How many calories should I eat” were both top Google health searches between January and November last year. Last year around 1 in 20 Google searches were health-related. In 2015, more than 3 billion downloads of mHealth apps have been estimated for the main app stores, allowing people to self-monitor disease conditions and adjust their lifestyles. Gradually, we are becoming empowered to know more about our own health – and act on it.
Understanding the challenges
Does healthcare understand this shift? Communication with friends and family is fast and frictionless today; people can do business, shop and put themselves through a university degree course online. They can now manage their finances seamlessly via phone apps; using virtual reality they can visit and examine the world’s most famous artworks.
Soon, they will ask why healthcare isn’t being delivered the same way.
From one perspective, the challenges embedded in the industry are broad and deep, and the limitations revolve around access to and free movement of data. Medical information is sensitive and often struggles to flow around the complicated and tangled bureaucracies constructed around healthcare services in many countries.
This lack of access to data and poor care co-ordination has worked to the detriment of patients and has inhibited health outcomes. For example, despite steady progress towards universal medical records, a vast majority of patients still have to repeat the same basic information to multiple healthcare professionals, according to the Future Health Index1, a survey of 25,000 patients which was commissioned by Philips. Most say they have also experienced repeatedly taking the same tests, delaying treatments and burning up valuable time.
These are big challenges for an industry negotiating digital change and it is not a unique problem.
Beyond traditional models
Healthcare delivery has reached the same juncture as taxis, broadcasting and hospitality did with the arrivals of Uber, Netflix and Airbnb. Broadcasters used to decide what people watched and when; now streaming services like Netflix allow viewers to choose and enjoy their favorite movies and TV series in one sitting. As a result, streaming services are now a vital part of all traditional broadcasters’ online offerings. Whole industries have been transformed by the ‘on demand’ consumer and quickly overtaken by innovations.
People can now rent out their own homes to visitors as opposed to taking the traditional route and booking a hotel or a bed and breakfast. Airbnb tapped into consumer appetite for different experiences and more personalized accommodation anywhere in the world and as a result disrupted the hospitality industry.
I am not suggesting that healthcare is standing still. Research suggests consumers want more connected healthcare. Over half (57%) of patients surveyed for the Future Health Index (aged 18-34) said they owned or used at least one health monitoring device, with 71% saying they would be interested in scheduling appointments online and 66% interested in receiving medical test results online.
Where will healthcare go next?
The research also highlighted some fault lines: around 74% of patients actively managed their own health but 75% of doctors thought patients needed to take a more active role. There’s obviously a disconnect between what people think they are doing and what doctors are observing.
At Philips we want to narrow that gap by empowering people to take better care of themselves, using digital technologies and connectivity. At IFA 2016, we are introducing a wide range of connected personal health innovations that empower consumers to stay healthy, live well and enjoy life.
Empowering consumers to engage in their health and take control of their lifestyle choices is precisely what Philips’ connected personal health programs do. Data from our connected health devices – such as Philips’ health watch, digital blood pressure monitors and body analysis scale – supports the small lifestyle changes that make a big difference.
Data accrued from connected devices which monitor patients, sensors in hospital rooms, wearables and lab equipment will ultimately transform healthcare in a huge way and usher in a new era of care delivery, reducing costs and saving time.
Soon consumers will want to access their lab results via their smart phones within minutes of leaving a medical center; they will want their data to be accessed on multiple devices and freely exchangeable, and they will want healthcare delivered from the comfort of their own homes.
And as care delivery moves that way, consumers will finally be able to add real-time, connected healthcare to the other digital services they now take for granted and use every day.
 More than 2,600 healthcare professionals and 25,000 patients were questioned in Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Japan, The Netherlands, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, UAE, UK and US.
Pieter joined Philips in 2010 as CEO of Philips Consumer Lifestyle. Prior to that he was on the Board of Management as Chief Marketing & Innovation Officer at Beiersdorf AG (a.o. Nivea), based in Hamburg, Germany. He started his career at Unilever in the Netherlands as a Brand manager in 1990, rising to Marketing Director and Member of the Executive Board of Unilever Poland and Germany, where he worked until 2005.
Pieter was born in the Netherlands in 1964. He is married with two children and holds a degree in Business Administration from Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Follow Pieter on: LinkedIn