Interview: Remote monitoring will revolutionise long-term care

IT for healthcare

Interview: Remote monitoring will revolutionise long-term care

Cliff Saran

Electronics and healthcare equipment maker Philips has partnered with Salesforce.com to develop a platform to support internet-connected healthcare devices.

Jeroen Tas, CEO of Philips Healthcare Infomatics, spoke to Computer Weekly about how the partnership will enable the consumerisation of healthcare, and support remote monitoring.

Philips-health-monitor.jpg

With a growing population of elderly people, healthcare services are struggling to treat them long-term. Technology built on the internet of things could be deployed to improve the quality of such patients' lives, and allow them to be treated at home.

Tas said the partnership will help healthcare professionals support people with chronic conditions by using mobile healthcare devices, removing the need for the patent to be in hospital.

“A nurse can manage hundreds of patients simultaneously and can prioritise care,” he said. “You can create personal feedback, so people can say how they feel.”

Mobile healthcare devices enable the patient's condition to be monitored remotely.

Earlier in June at the Forrester Forum event in London, Tas discussed the consumerisation of healthcare. He said: “Healthcare will be driven by consumerisation, driven by the adoption of mobile technology and improved data analytics and collaboration.”

Tas, who was previously global CIO at Philips, added: “There is a tremendous opportunity to consumerise health.” 

I've spent my career helping companies use technology to do business better. Now I want to make people better. It is a personal quest. If we can put the best brains in the world to improve healthcare, it will impact many people

Jeroen Tas, CEO, Philips Healthcare Infomatics

Asked why he took the role to push forward Philips' healthcare business, Tas said: “My motivation is that I've spent my career helping companies use technology to do business better. Now I want to make people better. It is a personal quest. If we can put the best brains in the world to improve healthcare, it will impact many people.”

Philips has taken a step forward in consumerisation of healthcare strategy through its collaboration with Salesforce.com to develop cloud-based support for connected healthcare. The products use Salesforce 1 to support telehealth.

Tas said the company is developing new products to support people with chronic conditions, and by monitoring the patient's health remotely, the technology can help avoid more acute conditions. “The partnership with Salesforce is integral to link remote health devices to healthcare professionals,” he said. “You need a platform that can capture data in a secure way.”

Data is analysed in real time, said Tas, and Salesforce collaboration tools are used to notify other members of the care team, or a family member, to take action if an alarm is raised.

Asked about the privacy issues that are raised when confidential patient records are stored in a public service such as the Salesforce cloud, Tas said: “We use a data cloud that is loosely coupled with Salesforce. We can also set up a separate data cloud that fits in with different markets, such as perhaps in the UK, which is not comfortable with public clouds.”

Tas said Philips can work with healthcare providers to determine where best to store the data. But he warned: “Once you have decided, you are stuck with your decision.”

This is because of the sheer volume of patient data that can be collected from monitoring. “You are looking at adding a petabyte a month,” said Tas. “Genome sequences are 800 Gbytes, a digital pathology scan of skin is 500 GBytes, so we will be very careful to make sure [healthcare providers] understand where they store this data and how to make it accessible.”

Tas believes that if the technology is simple enough to be used by an 80-year-old who is not tech-savvy, then it will easily scale the other way to young people who buy and use wearable technology.

One of the examples Tas gave of how remote healthcare could be deployed is in treating the elderly. He said: “We looked at addressing the problem of supporting an 80-year-old patient with respiratory problems who we support from home by checking their vital signs using an oximeter [a device to check blood oxygen], which is internet-connected. The readings are captured automatically.”

Philips has also developed a medicine dispenser, which can track when a patient is taking medication, and an internet-connected fall detector, which Tas said could be used to triage help.

Today we monitor in the ICU, but these algorithms could be applied to home as well

Jeroen Tas, CEO, Philips Healthcare Infomatics

In the future, technology developed for hospitals could be consumerised, said Tas, enabling people to check their health at home. “We have Guardian View, which is used in intensive care units [ICU] to stream vital signs data,” he said. 

The system monitors whether the patient's condition is deteriorating, and can send alerts to ICU staff. “We are tapping into a deep clinical pool of data,” said Tas. “Today we monitor in the ICU, but these algorithms could be applied to home as well.”

Tas believes consumerisation will bring down the cost of the technology, and the quality and security expected in medical-grade devices will eventually be available to the general public.

In fact, Philips has a strategy to integrate medical-grade products with consumer-based healthcare. “We will be adding more devices,” said Tas. The company will also work with third-party device developers. “We are moving from product to proposition,” Tas added. In this way, Philips is starting to link together products from different parts of the business to create something that enhances the customer experience.

Through its collaboration with Salesforce.com, Philips is developing a cloud-based platform that utilises its clinical data stores and medical device interoperability. The platform is designed to be open to third-party developers, enabling them to create healthcare applications.

Philips is expected to launch the first product resulting from the Salesforce collaboration later this summer. Tas said the application is currently going through compliance and is designed to reduce the number of visits to hospital patients needs to make, helping them to recuperate at home.


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