Global electronics giant Philips has been a regular feature of Salesforce.com keynotes in recent times, most notably of course in the form of Marc Benioff’s connected toothbrush.
This has been brandished in the air so often as part of the Internet of Customers pitch - it popped up this morning again at the Paris leg of the Salesforce1 tour - that when it was announced yesterday that the two firms would be teaming up for a new initiative, some joked that it would be to push TaaS - Toothbrush as a Service!
In fact it was a potentially far more significant alliance that was announced with the cloud CRM firm teaming up with Philips Healthcare to stake a claim to the emerging cloud healthcare market. We’re not talking TaaS, but PRM - Patient Relationship Management.
Research firm MarketsandMarkets estimates that the health care industry will invest $5.4 billion in cloud computing by 2017, a compound annual growth rate of 20.5% from a base in 2012.
The market to date has been dominated by SaaS providers, such as CareCloud, Carestream Health and Merge Healthcare.
But there have also been some significant failures, most notably the Google Health personal health records in the cloud initiative, which launched in 2008, but closed in 2011.
The reality is that there’s high risk, but high reward to be had in the healthcare in the cloud market. It’s a complicated market to tackle, given the differing nature of healthcare delivery models in countries around the world. For example, the private sector led, insurance-based US healthcare system is entirely different to the free-at-the-point-of-delivery first principle of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).
With that in mind, Salesforce.com’s decision to team up with a company with such a global healthcare footprint as Philips is eminently sensible.
A few interesting stats just to highlight that:
- 190 million patients worldwide were monitored by Philips monitors in 2013.
- 40 million babies were supported by Philips foetal monitors.
- Philips manages 10 petabytes of data for one leading healthcare provider.
- It stores 2 million patient records in one intensive care database for a client.
Speaking this morning, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff observed:
This relationship began 3 years ago when Philips became a customer. Our two companies have some amazing strengths. Salesforce.com has leadership in cloud computing, mobile, social and Philips has strength in healthcare, connected devices, clinical programmes.
The healthcare IT industry is being shaken up. We can see that in the huge amount of technology shifts and changes going on. The opportunity won’t come from the legacy technology companies. We need to build out a next generation platform that will enable the next generation of healthcare.
We’ve tried this vision out with patients and providers and hospitals and they expect more than the current patient journey. Some 80% of patients seek their health information online. All of us have mobile devices to book appointments, ask doctors questions, collaborate with patient communities.
Frans van Houten, CEO of Philips, added:
The current models of care are not sustainable. We all know that healthcare is very expensive. Care providers need to optimize their care delivery processes.
Approximately 75% of healthcare costs in the US goes on treating chronic disease. That requires ongoing patient support across the entire continuum of care - prevention, diagnosis, treatment, recovery.
Many chronic diseases are lifestyle-related. There is a need to consumerise healthcare. Mobile technology is spawning tremendous innovation. Social technology enables better collaboration between care providers. Big data allows better decisions to be made. The Internet of Things is giving rise to sensor networks that will measure your body’s vital signs.
Imagine a patient with heart arrhythmia. This is a patient who may not get enough oxygen, may fall down and often get strokes as the blood flow is not working well. It is essential that they take their medicine routinely and we are able to observe their vital signs.
If patients are compliant with taking their medicine and measuring their vital signs every morning, then they don’t have to come back to hospitals as often. We can measure and monitor the life signs and have the data sent back for analysis. So we can prevent patients with arrhythmia from having anxiety as well as being less of a cost burden on the healthcare system.
OK, so that’s the basic idea. What are the deliverables? Well, there are two to kick-off with, focusing on collaborative tele-health: Philips eCareCoordinator and Philips eCareCompanion.
But the vision is to create a development platform for healthcare cloud, with APIs being opened up to third party developers today.
In fact, with Google announcing its Google Fit wearable yesterday in San Francisco and Apple having confirmed that it will roll out its HealthKit offering with iOS 8, Benioff - a long time FitBit enthusiast - was keen to make this not just a wearables pitch:
This is more than about the popularity of wearables or connected devices.
Healthcare is going online, doctors are going online, hospitals are going online, health
advisers are going online. People who are sick, especially those who incur the biggest costs to the system, need to have a way to share information with devices and doctors.
We are creating a next generation platform. We are changing the patient journey. We are initially focusing on telehealth and accountable health organistions and will eliminate the boundaries between hospitals and homes, doctors and patients.
It’s a far cry from Salesforce.com’s last major public pronouncement on healthcare, which was last December when Benioff offered to rebuild and run the troubled Obamacare website free of charge for five years. (The White House declined the offer.)
Here in the UK I’m still recovering from years of writing about the doomed NHS National Programme for IT, a folie de grandeur instigated by then Prime Minister Tony Blair as part of his ache to be seen on the bleeding edge of modernity.
Commissioned on the basis of an hour long meeting with advisers, the NPfIT rumbled on for over a decade, lurching from crisis to crisis as the bill rose higher and higher and more and more public money was poured down the drain.
Even today, there is no final price tag for NPfIT, with numbers such as £12.7 billion bandied around. The deliverables? Essentially nothing more than a private network for the NHS. Certainly the grand vision of a health service with universal online patient records remains defiantly unrealised.
Interestingly, during the dying days of NPfIT and prior to the last UK national elections, David Cameron, then vying to become Prime Minister, raised the possibility of cloud-based patient records alternatives, citing Google Health as an example. All hell broke loose in the mainstream media, orchestrated by the right wing Daily Mail.
Now the Daily Mail never knowingly wastes an opportunity to blame Google for every evil of the modern world, but even so, the wider reaction to a later revelation that healthcare data had been sold to the US cloud services provider was not enthusiastic.
Salesforce.com may benefit in this respect from its investment in European data centers in the UK and soon to be France and Germany, while Philips European roots should also help calm nerves. Certainly Benioff’s recent emphasis on data sovereignty control and choice being in the hands of enterprise cloud subscribers plays to this as well.
The variable now will be to observe how this initiative pans out globally. The impression given this morning, especially by Philips, is that it’s the insurance-led, private sector-driven healthcare markets that are the low-hanging fruit.
van Houten talked at one point about insurance firms who had to “fork out” to pay for patient treatment and how such providers were keen to find methods by which their customers lifestyle choices could be monitored to make sure that they were doing their best to keep fit and healthy. (And not to have to pay out if they're not presumably.)
How this new drive is pitched at countries that offer universal health care will be interesting. That includes the UK, France and Germany - the three European Union states identified by Benioff as the main buyers of enterprise software - as well as the likes of Australia, New Zealand and Canada to varying degrees.
All of those universal care systems are creaking under the strain of an exploding and ageing population, as well as being held back by ageing technology. So there’s a clear opportunity there, but the messaging will be different. A straight ‘profit margin’ cost story won’t cut it on its own.
That said, perhaps we can take some indication that such public healthcare systems have an interest in the cloud from the latest stats from the UK government’s G-Cloud program where monthly spend on cloud across the NHS and its affiliates has been steadily rising (until a blip in May).
And of course, Salesforce.com is a player in the G-Cloud's CloudStore...
Disclosure: at time of writing, Salesforce.com is a premium partner of diginomica.
Cloud computing in the healthcare sector is the topic of Think Cloud for Health, a new conference coming to London in 2015 from the company behind Think Cloud for Government. This one day event will look at the successes of organisations in the healthcare ecosystem which have invested in cloud technologies and provide insight into their journeys. diginomica is proud to be the main media partner for the event. Attendance is free of charge to qualifying healthcare professionals. You can find out more information here.