Is the world ready for connected health? Philips study aims to find out

Philips CEO Frans van Houten

Royal Philips ($PHG) is betting the farm on HealthTech, committing to a company transformation a few years ago to embrace the transformation of consumer and institutional healthcare through new technologies. But now it's asking the question--are we really ready for all that?

It's launched a 13-country survey of about 25,000 patients and more than 2,500 healthcare providers, which it plans to conduct annually. The first iteration of the survey suggests the answer could be: Maybe we're not quite ready yet.

Obviously, interest in and adoption of connected health is biased toward younger consumers and providers. More than half of patients age 18 to 34 reported owning at least one health-monitoring device. And consumers seem largely to feel that they have a lot of the information they need to manage their own health effectively at their command, with more than two-thirds reporting this. But healthcare providers aren't so sure; fewer than 40% agree.

"We see a lot of conservatism in how the health delivery networks work. With these results, we hope to have a dialogue on how we can help to change faster," Philips CEO Frans van Houten told FierceMedicalDevices in an interview. "Data is already proliferating, but access to the data is very difficult. Patients want access to more than doctors want."

While patients are enthusiastic about their own ability to monitor their health, both patients and healthcare providers would like to see health systems get better at data integration and sharing, with more than two-thirds of patients and 85% of providers reporting that this could offer improved care.

The healthcare bureaucracy itself is perceived as a drag on the realization of connected healthcare by many--with more than half of providers reporting that this is constraining its implementation.

Interestingly, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates lead the way when it comes to healthcare technology adoption, according to the study. More patients and practitioners in emerging economies expected connected tech to be part of their healthcare.

"There is a debate around making health information available to patients; this needs to happen," said van Houten. "The younger generations find this normal. In emerging markets, it's their solution because there is no legacy system. The smartphone is the only way to talk to a doctor or a nurse, or to do a simple check during pregnancy."