Healthcare needs a shot in the arm
Younger markets such as the UAE have the opportunity to better regulate the health sector to enable newer medicines and treatments to come to the market in half the time taken by more mature markets. This, combined with a dire need for better healthcare and a growing number of lifestyle-related diseases, make the UAE and the Middle East a prime market for global healthcare players such as Philips. Dr Gottfried H Dutiné, Executive Vice-President and Global Head of Markets and Innovation, Philips, gives Emirates Business an insight.
How important is the Middle East for Philips Healthcare?
For the last quarter of 2009, the group reported a 12.3 growth in Ebitda [excluding incidental gains and charges], which was a record for us. The results reflect we have really improved in a big way our position in healthcare in most of the markets, especially the so-called emerging markets; the Middle East, China, India, Brazil, Russia and East Europe. In emerging markets, we have growth rates in double digits. We see the Middle East holding huge potential. The healthcare system here is not as developed as Europe and the US and far less of the local gross domestic product is spent on healthcare. There is a growing need for it because the changing lifestyles are causing more diabetes and more heart patients. You also have a population growing by two per cent per annum. So there is clearly not only the need to improve the current system but extra need because of the change in lifestyle and related diseases. We are pretty sure we have a long-term sustained opportunity, which we want to manage with the right people, right products and right investments.
What is needed to improve the overall healthcare system?
It needs continuous awareness and quality discussions with governments and stakeholders. Quality standards are not regulated worldwide and this is a topic for all countries, including the so-called mature ones. It is an issue the total healthcare community has to work on. In many markets doctors, after having left the university, get no education for the next 30 years. That cannot be the case any more. It is a challenge for the medical community worldwide. There are a number of reasons why this is happening. In healthcare, if you get a treatment and it is successful, it is fine for you but it finally doesn't matter for the system. The system is not rewarded because you are better. We see in many cases a lack of awareness of the outcome of performance. It's not like the auto industry; when the car breaks down, ther institutions go after manufacturers not delivering quality products. I have to admit in healthcare it is not possible to check the quality of an outcome. But for sure by training doctors every five years, with permanent checks, you can improve the quality of outcome.
I am in discussions with a number of medical professionals because this is a big concern. If you really want to lower the costs, you need to improve the quality of the outcome. It is relevant.
A lack of attention is keeping doctors from training every five years.
What's on the horizon for medicine?
You will soon see the use of different methodologies. For instance, the use of information technology in the medical field is at 25 per cent of other industries. I'm pretty sure fields like pathology can utilise video/face recognition technology that today's games use. Today, if a pathologist is looking through a microscope at a sample, he has then to remember how that resembles to other cases he has seen before. He can read books. Some of it might be done in the future by computers and then the computer compares 20 million patient data. No human brain could ever do that. So there are a number of things on the horizon, which will totally improve or revolutionise certain aspects of the medical world.
We are always looking at how we can speed up diagnosis, how to improve the treatment of people. Today we have a very traditional way of treating people. Modern technology will allow much earlier diagnosis, and bedside or home diagnosis. This will help discover problems much earlier. We are only at the beginning of a big revolution. A number of companies are working on this. Markets which are not so heavily regulated have opportunities to test certain things earlier.
What is your company's spend on research and development?
As a group, we spend almost €1.7 billion on R&D and healthcare is almost half of that. We also work with third parties and university hospitals because you need to test. That is also the only way to shorten time to market.
PROFILE: Dr Gottfried H Dutiné Executive Vice-President and Global Head of Markets and Innovation, Philips
Dutiné began his industrial career in 1979 at Rockwell-Collins GmbH. Later he worked with Motorola, Robert Bosch GmbHand and Alcatel. He joined Philips in February 2002 and was appointed a member of the Board of Management in March 2002. In January 2010, he was appointed to his present post. Dutiné holds a diploma in Electrical Engineering and a PhD in Communications Technology from the University of Darmstadt, Germany.
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