Salesforce.com and Philips to launch telehealth platform in US this summer

New service aims to lower costs and provide better treatment for sufferers of chronic conditions, which account for more than three-quarters of US healthcare spending.
Written by Nick Heath, Contributor

A cloud platform that allows doctors to monitor patients' health outside the hospital will launch in the US this summer.

The platform, a collaboration between US cloud provider Salesforce.com and Dutch electronics giant Philips, will enable clinicians to track a patient's vital signs and check whether they are sticking to treatment plans.

The system works by collecting data from dedicated apps where patients log general health-related information, and from sensors and wearable devices monitoring vital signs. All the data is fed to a service, running on Salesforce.com's Salesforce1 Platform, which analyses it and feeds back useful information to patients and doctors to guide treatment.

The information will be filtered so doctors see data most relevant to the condition the patient is currently being treated for. Any data suggesting a healthcare problem that needs urgent attention is flagged up to the clinician, who can then use the platform's built-in comms links to contact a colleague, the patient or patient's family to try to resolve the issue.

In a walkthrough of the platform, Philips information services CEO Jeroen Tas talked about how the system could spot that an elderly patient with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease had missed some of her medication and detect low oxygen levels in her bloodstream. These issues could then be flagged to the patient and to a nurse, who could notify a colleague and message that patient's daughter — all using the platform.

Philips already builds many healthcare-related monitors that will work with the system. It will be designed to work with third-party healthcare monitoring and wearable devices. Developers will also be able to access the platform's APIs, so third-party companies can build applications that tap into the service.

Philips has built two applications so far on the platform, eCareCoordinator and eCareCompanion. eCareCoordinator is the software designed to present relevant patient care data to the clinician, flag problems and provide comms links to other healthcare professionals and the patient.

eCareCompanion is a tablet app where patients can log information about their health and which keeps track of heath data from connected devices, such as scales and blood pressure monitors. It is designed to be simple to use and alerts the patient when necessary — for instance, when their vital signs drop to dangerous levels or they forget to take medication.

The platform is designed to allow patients and their families to keep on top of healthcare and ongoing treatments alongside clinicians.

At the launch of the platform, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said it would be focused on alleviating the costs and improving the treatment of patients with chronic conditions, and those requiring long-term care. More than three-quarters of healthcare costs in the US stem from treatment of such conditions, according to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We will eliminate boundaries between hospital and homes and enable collaboration between patients and doctors," Benioff said of Salesforce.com's partnership with Philips.

The Philips platform will support telehealth-based care, which Philips says will improve patient health and lower treatment costs by reducing the chance of conditions deteriorating and patients needing to be hospitalised.

Philips CEO Frans van Houten said: "Jointly we will be able to address major challenges in healthcare. Current models of care are not sustainable as more people come into the system."

Healthcare insurance companies have also expressed interest in the possibilities of the technology, van Houten said.

"Insurance companies are interested in shifting towards these new care delivery methods where patients can be held more accountable for lifestyle shifts," he said.

The Salesforce1 platform on which the service is built offers various methods to secure data, such as two-factor authentication, VPN connections, IP whitelisting and encryption of data stored locally on a client device.

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