Philips’ Fabian Wong on how tech can improve your healthcare

By: Holly Robertson - Posted on: May 18, 2016 | Business

Philips was long known as a leader in electronics, but the firm has expanded into new territory. Asean-Pacific CEO Fabian Wong discusses the company’s innovations in healthcare

Hear mention of the brand name Philips, and images of televisions or sound systems probably spring to mind. But the Dutch company sold off its TV and audio businesses several years ago and has since focused on lighting and healthcare. Global sales reached $27.1 billion last year, and the firm reported a net income of $737m in its 2015 annual statement.

Fabian Wong
Fabian Wong worked his way up to become a multinational CEO after starting his career as a retail buyer for a department store.

Philips now is upping its efforts within the lucrative healthcare market. In February, the company split into two, with one firm merging the healthcare and consumer lifestyle divisions and the other concentrating on lighting. Philips Asean-Pacific CEO Fabian Wong, who will head the health-tech firm in the region, said the transition into two separate entities would allow the twin companies to better focus on their objectives.

“Philips will be able to capitalise on the convergence of professional healthcare and consumer end-markets across what we call the health continuum, from healthy living and prevention, to diagnosis, treatment, recovery and home care,” he said of the health-tech firm.

Wong said that, globally, there is an estimated $150 billion worth of opportunities in the health-tech sector. “Many parts of the world are facing an ageing population with more chronic and lifestyle-related diseases, making healthcare cost containment a key focus. The world’s population is also growing fast, especially in emerging markets. This ever-expanding group of people will continue to need access to healthcare,” he said, adding that Southeast Asia is a “microcosm of the wider world”. While more developed countries such as Singapore are grappling with issues around ageing populations, many others are dealing with soaring population growth and rapid urbanisation.

Philips is positioning itself to meet those needs in the region. In Indonesia, the company recently ran a year-long pilot project with the Indonesian Reproduction Science Institute at Bundamedik hospital group in an effort to reduce maternal mortality rates. Midwives used an app to build health profiles of 656 pregnant women by collecting vital health information from the expectant mothers’ physical examinations and local clinic tests, in order to determine medical risks and facilitate diagnostic assistance.

The firm was also involved in introducing a programme for heart failure patients at Singapore’s Changi General Hospital that aimed to encourage the patients to better care for their own health, with the aim of reducing the risk of hospitalisation and premature death.

“Technology, in particular technology allowing digitisation of healthcare, offers new opportunities to improve population health outcomes and efficiency through integrated care, real-time analytics and value-added services. New digital tools and capabilities are driving increased collaboration and improving the overall quality of care, along with advancements in predictive and precision medicine,” said Wong.

“There is a rising engagement of consumers to proactively monitor and manage their health, and increasing pressures on the healthcare system to create new personalised models of care along the health continuum to deliver better and more affordable care,” he added.

The firm, which has had a presence in Southeast Asia for more than 60 years, is also opening its new regional headquarters in Singapore this month with a focus on innovation and design, as well as research and development. Philips faces varied levels of demand and competition across the globe, Wong said, but he argues that it sets itself apart from regional competitors by positioning itself as a health-tech firm with both professional and consumer offerings.

“We will differentiate ourselves in this market by providing solutions that are an integral part of the health continuum. Our health programmes are not about generic fitness tracking. These programmes are being developed with leading doctors and psychologists, and leverage the deep clinical knowledge and professional healthcare expertise of Philips,” he said.