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Patients, Users & Beyond

Patients, Users & Beyond

If patient were king: Philips’ new approach to healthtech business


Edgar Van Zoelen of Philips talks to Lauren Blanchard about the company’s mission to drive innovative value-added, integrated solutions and lead the digital transformation. The company’s HealthSuite Labs are helping to allow cross-market and -specialism collaborations that could  be revolutionary

Health data

As well as keeping its core business thriving, Philips are planning to grow via M&A, organic investments and partnerships – but in addition to that, the company is determined to lead the world of digital transformation and improve customer experience, quality systems, operational excellence and productivity. Those are global ambitions, and Philips’ investment in the markets is significant. In Europe and America, consultative customer partnerships are proving key, bringing growth and mutual rewards. And the focus on customers is being achieved through a packaged suite of systems, smart devices, software and services.‘There are two parts that really define Philips. The first part focuses on patient experience – we want to keep the patient in the centre and improve their outcome as the final goal of improving healthcare,’ explains Edgar Van Zoelen, the Global Head of Philips HealthSuite Labs. ‘The second defining part of Philips is integrating solutions to solve longterm problems with our customers. We’re thinking along strategic lines – how can we support our customers’ health transformation and not simply focus on our products?’

Innovating healthcare, together

HealthSuite Labs is a new engagement method for innovation, a process involving co-creating and co-inventing with other agencies, companies and experts to seek out the ideal solution to patient problems in healthcare. These engagements can include attendance by various involved stakeholders eg insurance companies, hospitals, care networks, academics, customers of the internal business, and even local government. ‘We had one session with the Dutch Ministry of Health where there were 44 people involved, including individuals from Philips and 17 different organisations.’

Sessions can be very intensive, one complex situation recently comprising a three-day workshop with three and a half month preparation time. And everything, the preparation and the work alike, is done together. ‘Some people do not realise what they are getting themselves into. They expect that we will do all the preparation work and that they just need to show up to the workshops and not contribute much. But that’s not the case, this is our journey together and the value of that is tremendous. We create such a platform with these discussions that different stakeholders and experts are able to come in and augment. And that adds value to the discussion.’



Health data

Edgar Van Zoelen talking at a HealthSuite Labs session

As a result, sessions are usually very interesting and high energy, but also include some intense discussions. ‘When you provide that type of transparency not everybody agrees with each other and that requires some intense facilitation,’ Van Zoelen continues. ‘We at Philips would like to facilitate these types of innovation processes together with our customers and their partners. And we consider ourselves not just the facilitator in preparation and during the sessions, but also after them, when the engagement keeps going. It doesn’t stop after a session. Here, we look towards the destination of integrated solutions today, tomorrow, and for the next couple of years. How we can keep helping our customers advance into their own transformation.’

From hospital system administrators to GPs, a lot of interest has been shown in this new method of collaboration. And the results differ widely from place to place. ‘Each country has their own healthcare legislation, so the laws of regulation differ quite a bit.’ Even sessions in Northern Germany can differ greatly from those in Southern Germany. ‘But across the board, improving patient care is a priority.’

Investing for necessary change

This approach to innovation is very labour intensive, which means Philips has invested a lot into this part of the process, but they believe the result, creating a long-term vision together with stakeholders, will help the business grow. ‘Though we remain a commercial organisation and would like to continue selling our products and services, the way we do that will be different. We intend for the whole business model around it to change. Instead of seeing us as the vendor with a great product, the real needs are first identified, then the solution is built or configured around that problem.’

Health data

Edgar Van Zoelen

This approach means the HealthSuite Lab sessions are not sales pitches, and Philips facilitators do not focus on their products or prices, but rather on how to solve the customer’s problems. ‘Because Philips has the seat at the table and we are able to architect and co-design the ideal solution with the customer, we provide full transparency and openness, by confirming or denying whether a product available is the best solution for customers. This is the level of openness and transparency that we would like to have with all our customers, moving from a transactional relationship to a partnership-based relationship.

‘What we have learned is that, if it is done with a lot of momentum where you just focus on mission direction and not just the products of Philips, this is really just about the patient and the customer and how we can add value there.’ Bigger thinking is freeing up a creative approach to problem solving that’s proving both innovative and hopeful.

About the author

A graduate from the University of California Los Angles, Lauren is currently based in Strasbourg where she is studying French and working in medical communications.

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