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A holistic view of healthcare

Medical-systems giant shifts focus from hospital treatment to include disease prevention and health management

Published on December 18, 2007

A holistic view of healthcare


Healthcare is no longer an issue restricted solely to hospitals.

There is no clearer proof of this than in the planning of electronics and healthcare giant Philips. Roughly one-quarter of the worldwide conglomerate's income is generated by its medical systems and healthcare solutions, and these sections of Philips have come up with Vision 2010 and the Cycle of Care.

Vision 2010 is a three-year strategic plan in which Philips plans with new technologies to help provide access to a kind of universal healthcare in which a person can be healed before falling ill, where a patient can be "seen" without leaving home and where urgent medical decisions can be made instantly, because of rapid availability of relevant information.

In its Cycle of Care, the company will deliver innovative technologies to help provide the best treatments, from disease prevention to screening and diagnosis, treatment, monitoring and health management.

Its main strategic plans are to deliver strong products and better services, in order to fulfil the entire care cycle and serve the emerging markets of the Asia-Pacific, especially China and India.

Philips Medical Systems CEO Steve Rusckowski says Vision 2010, beginning next year and ending in 2010, will involve approaching markets with the Cycle of Care theme and stressing the need to provide new technologies at all stages of healthcare, not only when patients are treated in hospital.

"We view every single aspect of each patient's treatment, from the initial diagnosis to testing, monitoring and aftercare, as a part of a holistic process we call the 'care cycle'. We provide healthcare solutions for the hospital and for the home," Rusckowski says.

The company has applied the concept in its research and development into diseases and conditions like congestive heart failure, lung and breast cancer and coronary artery disease. Its new technologies have been designed and developed in the company's main areas of expertise, including cardiology, oncology, critical care and women's health.

To provide more efficient solutions and serve the entire care cycle, Philips Medical Systems will merge with Philips Consumer Healthcare Solutions next year to become Philips Healthcare.

Last year, Philips Medical Systems generated revenue of 6.7 billion (Bt329 billion) and Philips Consumer Healthcare Solutions about 200 million. Total revenue from the entire Philips Group was 27 billion, so Philips Medical Systems contributed 24.81 per cent of the total.

Under Philips Medical Systems, there are three main business units: imaging systems, including nuclear medicine, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET) and X-ray; information, ultrasound and monitoring solutions, as well as healthcare information and document services; and customer services, including consultancy, clinical services, assessment management, maintenance and repair. The three business units represent 41 per cent, 33 per cent and 26 per cent, respectively, of Philips Medical Systems.

Philips launched its latest imaging-system technologies last month at the 93rd annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, in Chicago. Much attention was drawn to its New Brilliance intelligent computed tomography (iCT) scanner. It has new X-ray tubes, detectors and reconstructed design elements that deliver 256 slices, providing clear and detailed three-dimensional images of entire organs, including the heart and the brain. It can also show changes over time.

The scanner delivers key clinical insights for a wide range of applications in the fields of radiology and cardiology, while its enhanced visualisations will help doctors to diagnose and treat problems within the heart. The machine is also 22-per-cent faster than existing systems.

"By the end of March next year, we expect that around 25 New Brilliance iCTs will have been shipped around the world," Rusckowski says, including one to Singapore.

The company is also running research-and-development projects aimed at developing medical systems around radiological technology, for diagnosing and treating heart disease and cancer.

They include spectral CT imaging to quantify the amount of calcium, such as calcified plaques, in tissues and with the ability to differentiate multiple contrast agents from anatomical structures in one-pass CT scans. Advanced software algorithms are also being developed, to calculate the probability that a lung nodule is malignant and search a database of prior cases with known diagnoses and present clinically relevant past cases to the user.

Research projects are also focused on creating patient-specific organ models for personalised radiology planning, therapy and reporting and on developing new image-analysis techniques to enhance the resolution and image quality of PET and single-photon emission computed tomography scans and extract quantitative information related to localised tissue processes, such as hypoxia (reduced oxygen levels in tissue). Image-guidance technologies based on a fusion of magnetic resonance and ultrasound images are also being developed for prostate biopsy.

For its emerging market strategy, Philips is eyeing the Asia-Pacific as a key growth market, especially China and India.

Wayne Spittle, Philips Medical Systems' vice president and general manager for the Asia-Pacific, says the total medical-equipment market in the region is worth 5 billion, or 20 per cent of the 25-billion world market. Philips Medical Systems' share of the Asia-Pacific market is 17 per cent, and the company expects sales growth of 15 per cent to lift its revenue from this region to 1.3 billion next year.

Spittle said the Asia-Pacific can be categorised into two distinct markets: developed, including Japan, Australia, South Korea and Singapore; and developing, including China, India and Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and Malaysia.

Across the region, major healthcare challenges include growing populations of elderly and an increase in lifestyle diseases like cancer and heart disease.

However, the main challenges include improving infrastructure, developing local technical skills, improving healthcare information, retaining healthcare professionals and increasing healthcare coverage, as well as developing unique financing solutions.

In emerging markets like India, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand, increasing access to available healthcare systems and solutions is a serious challenge that needs urgent attention.

"We plan to collaborate with governments, healthcare providers and enterprises to advance access to healthcare and improve healthcare infrastructures, reduce technology costs and increase funding for research and development in these emerging markets," Spittle says.

Asina Pornwasin

 The Nation

Chicago, Illinois


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