Navigating healthcare markets in the 21st century

By - World Healthcare Journal

Navigating healthcare markets in the 21st century

Henk Siebren de Jong, Philips Chief of International Markets since 2017, speaks to WHJ Global Editor Clare Whelan about different global healthcare markets and future healthcare challenges.

Royal Philips, the leading health technology provider has recently launched new technologies which it says demonstrate its understanding of the needs of healthcare providers to improve outcomes, enhance the patient experience, increase staff satisfaction and lower the cost of care delivery. Under the watchful eye of Henk Siebren, Chief of International Markets, the company has navigated different global healthcare markets and is facing the challenges of 21st century healthcare head on.

De Jong is fluent in Dutch, English, Spanish and Portuguese and holds a Master of Science in Business Administration. His remit is global with the exception of North America and Greater China. For many years he has worked with customers in emerging markets where there is an appetite to provide inclusive healthcare despite the challenges of rising costs and the rise in non-communicable diseases.

He points out the wide variation in state healthcare spending globally, with the United States spending 18-19%, whereas in Europe it is around 10-12% and in emerging markets it is around 6%. In India it is 1.15%. It is in those emerging markets that he believes innovation that removes waste and gives better patient outcomes can really help, particularly where there are shortages of doctors and nurses. “There are all these complex issues. I love it because it is a kind of jigsaw puzzle to figure out what is right for that customer in that region and in that market,” he says.

De Jong’s previous role was as a Philips Market Leader in Latin America and he has also spent time in Asia, so has developed a broad international perspective on different health economies and their differing needs. He has been to Japan many times which has the oldest population, whereas in Latin America the average age is much younger. He says that in Japan citizens are spending longer being socially and economically active. “Technology allows people to stay active and independent as long as possible, for care givers as well as care receivers. ”

However, he says, in Latin America the challenges are more in prevention and he has been advising investment in prevention and population health management. He says you can use population health management in Japan but the balance between prevention and treatment is different. Europe, he reflects, is more or less between the two. On England’s NHS he says he thinks they do “a really great job” particularly in data management and prevention.

Using data and artificial intelligence

He is particularly passionate about what he calls ‘connected care’, stressing that the role of data becomes more important each year. He cites as an example the new Philips MRI scanner, which is unlike previous MRI scanners in that it uses sensors and artificial intelligence to pick up breathing patterns and to adjust if the camera detects movement correcting the imagine. This eliminates the need for rescans if a patient moves during the 45-minute process. “The first thing we have done is taken out the helium so we only have a 0.5% of the original amount of helium which is good from an ecological point of view because helium is a scarce resource,”  he says. “Once you have the scan you can send it everywhere. ” He is particularly excited that an image can be compared with other scans in the cloud and artificial intelligence to help doctors so productivity goes up. He believes the key is to know where there is waste, weed it out and replace it.

Asked whether he believes there is more openness to technology in underdeveloped countries he responds that there is a big difference from a few years ago. The United States used to be more advanced but now the difference between developed or developing countries has diminished. He thinks progress is more to do with appetite for change. “When you have a team in a hospital or a clinic that is very open and looking for long term transformation  they just get it. ” 

He also says that in some emerging markets if provision is reshaped using new technology in one region, other regions see it is working and will adopt a big change themselves rather than feeling the need to take incremental steps. That is where change can be “just tremendous”.

A changing workforce

While A.I. productivity and algorithms are changing a lot he doesn’t think it will replace people, but simply change the way they work. As an example he says: “If you are in a hospital and look for certain flows then you need algorithms and artificial intelligence to help you, but you still need somebody who has to do the observation. You are breaking away the silos. ”

What he finds fascinating is that transformation is not only in healthcare, not only in customers but also the jobs of people and also how they interact saying that “as an innovative company we always say it is okay to have a certain amount of uncertainty. It is unhealthy not to, but you need to do something with it. Go out. Be inquisitive! ”

Identifying global health challenges.

De Jong like many others believes the biggest challenge is the rise in non-communicable diseases in emerging markets “which is a time bomb on costs” particularly chronic diseases such as obesity, smoking, lack of exercises and heart conditions. “Every condition doubles the cost. So if you have four conditions you have 16 times higher cost. We need to do better population health analysis to understand where to focus. ”

He says that Philips believes care should be organised holistically around multiple chronic conditions patients. “The transformational thing in healthcare will be if all health care players and NGOs are working together. If you connect those and focus completely on the patient, let the data weed out the waste and replace that by great treatment it will be transformational. We are closer than we think so it is not any more a dream. We can do it. It just takes a little more time.

“We have our financial targets but we want to improve people’s lives by meaningful innovations. Our goal is to improve 3bn lives a year by 2030 using our solutions. For us, it is all about looking through the lens of healthcare to our consumers to see what will help them live healthier lives. ”


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