Industry partnership could open gateway to IoT health tech

A new partnership between Philips and Pegasystems could bring us a step closer to the future of connected healthcare

A few months back I asked range of industry insiders what they thought the future of health tech would mean for ordinary people by 2026. The feedback was remarkably consistent. Individuals I spoke to described a future of at home care, made possible through proactive monitoring, and powered by data analytics.

The technology is mostly already in place to deliver this vision. From fitness trackers to body scans, consumers and healthcare providers alike already capture a wealth of personal data. We also already have the sophisticated analytics and machine learning capabilities to generate genuine insight and make very valid predictions. The main stumbling block we face is that the people and processes are not always ready. They do not join up. And they often make things very difficult indeed.

Now a partnership between Philips and Pegasystems – announced yesterday at Pegaworld 2016 in Las Vegas – aims to provide one high level solution to help solve this. As the news release explains, by connecting the Pega Care Management Application to the Philips HealthSuite Cloud platform, caregivers can “remotely manage care with connected health applications”.

Jeroen Tas, CEO of Connected Care and Health Informatics at Philips details in his Pegaworld keynote how, via a combination of ongoing health tracking, targeted questions and proactive intervention before crisis point, technology enabled solutions can improve a patient’s quality of life and significantly reduce costs. “Technology is enabling the human touch,” he says.

Philips recently ran a self-care study based on 1,800 people in Liverpool, UK, living with long-term conditions – like diabetes and heart failure. Digital Health Age described it in terms of: “Philips’ telehealth study builds case for ‘at scale’ roll-out of supported self-care”. This is because clear cost reductions aside, 90% of those studied reported they felt more in control of their condition.

To my mind, there seems little doubt on the benefits of self-monitoring, as long as it is fully integrated with and supported by healthcare providers. The real challenge is to bring that whole ecosystem together and make it happen. This is why a partnership between two very large specialists – which each have their own industry connections – could be a clear step forward.

In essence, Pega provides the case management which underpins much of the process-driven administration of healthcare while Philips provides the connected devices. This should, theoretically at least, help deliver on one of the biggest promises of the Internet of Things. It should mean trusted consumer devices can be connected through an open, interoperable system working within clinically compliant guidelines.

Part of the battle has already been won because healthcare providers are also beginning to understand the benefit of facilitating this type of technology. A couple of years ago uMotif – a (then new) health app which aimed to help patients monitor long term conditions, like diabetes, in conjunction with healthcare providers won a Cisco startup award.

I happened to attend the ceremony in 2013 and decided to follow up with the company recently. Bruce Hellman, CEO and co-founder noted the change he had seen in the last couple of years. “Health systems are rapidly adopting digital technology, such as ours, because they want to engage patients; collect more data; and have a better understanding of their population,” he said.

The fruits of the partnership between Philips and Pega are expected to be made generally available later this year but it also forms a clear part of both companies’ wider missions. For Pega this is around helping to end data siloes and deliver software to enable smoother customer interaction. While for Philips is about putting more focus on proactive healthcare.

Tas explains during a press round table that Philips plans to launch a larger range of health devices to consumers. And while the company does not have concrete figures on exactly how many people are using connected devices at present – due to variety as much as anything – Tas expects the number grow exponentially.  “In four to five years we will have hundreds of millions of connected devices,” he says.

Overall, this looks to be an excellent proposition. But its main issue will probably not be technology at all, but how it will reach the patients. In the US it will predominantly arrive via the healthcare provider which is perhaps an easiest and more obvious way in. The scale could, however, be more of a challenge elsewhere.

Yet Tas is very optimistic. He repeats a number of times that he used work as at Citibank, which was first to launch internet banking. Nobody believed it would work, he says. Now he feels healthcare is equally ripe for disruption. And the potential benefits are even more obvious.  


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What will health tech mean for ordinary people in 2026?