How Philips Turns the AWS Cloud into a Telehealth Business
Between 2009 and 2015, a massive federal effort to digitize health records and modernize the logistics of medicine made huge changes in the US healthcare system. Among the most dramatic results was the realization that patients who were allowed to recover at home were happier and they often responded and recovered better than those treated only as inpatients.
A 2013 pilot program sponsored by Philips found that the use of telehealth systems could reduce hospitalizations by 45 percent, cut acute and long-term care costs by 32 percent, and reduce overall cost of care by 27 percent.
The cost of connecting systems able to deliver reliable, real-time monitoring and alerts can be justified for critical-care patients, but not for those using Philips products to manage sleep apnea, diabetes, or other chronic care issues. “It was immediately apparent that the only way to capture all that data and use it across all those contexts was in the cloud,” says Dale Wiggins, vice president and general manager of the Philips HealthSuite Digital Platform (HSDP).
We realized that if we wanted to be able to deliver the kinds of solutions our customers truly needed, we could only do that with a focused cloud platform strategy. That was what led us to create HealthSuite Digital Platform on AWS."
Vice President and General Manager of Philips HealthSuite Digital Platform, Philips
An Internet of Home Health Things
Philips was an early adopter of Amazon Web Services (AWS), deploying its first Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) buckets in 2006, when the service became available. Today, the foundation of the company's cloud strategy is the HealthSuite Digital Platform. The cloud infrastructure includes open, highly secure, platform-as-a-service capabilities that enable Philips teams and external customers to easily connect devices as well as collect, aggregate, store, and analyze electronic health data.
“Philips made a strategic decision a number of years back to help our customers serve patients not just in traditional clinical settings but along a continuum that also includes support for healthy living, aging in place, and more effective home care,” Wiggins says.
Built natively on AWS, HSDP makes heavy use of many AWS services, including nearly 10,000 Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances. Philips, which initially moved 19 petabytes of on-premises medical imaging data to the cloud, now stores 44 petabytes of data on AWS. From the beginning, Philips relied on AWS IoT Core for device connectivity. “Moving to the cloud allowed us to connect devices using the AWS Internet of Things service,” says ck Andrade, senior director of digital product management at Philips. “That change meant that our healthcare systems could deliver telemedicine by leveraging AWS IoT Core, which built on this great relationship we already had with AWS.”
Cloud Connectivity Supports Expanded Healthcare
Philips not only gained savings and reduced its time-to-market by using AWS as its primary connectivity solution, it also now provides better quality of care and greater resources to an overburdened healthcare system. “The cloud makes everything more cost-effective, so there were a lot of cost savings in general,” Andrade says. “And we could extend the reach of care by leveraging the cloud for device connectivity and for changing how we share data. Look, for example, at one of the first products we brought to the cloud: eCareCoordinator. We could do things like fork data to the right geography and bring telehealth to remote areas. Because AWS had a server in the right region, we could say, ‘If you’re comfortable having some of this data move from on premises to the cloud, we can help you.’”
Although the cloud minimizes many of the technical challenges, it doesn’t eliminate them, especially for organizations unaccustomed to offering high-touch medical services at the end of an internet connection. “Hospitals once saw themselves as standalone islands, offering only reactive treatment. Now they recognize the need to operate as part of an ecosystem that helps healthcare consumers manage their health more holistically and proactively,” says Ad Dijkhoff, head of HSDP business development at Philips. “They want to monitor patients at home to reduce acute-care visits and be able to share patient information with general practitioners to ensure continuity of care. Hospitals also want to interface with home-care organizations to further improve patient outcomes. But to accomplish these goals, they have to make enterprise-wide use of their electronic medical records, take advantage of clinical-grade IoT connections, and maintain rigorous protection around data privacy and regulatory compliance.”
Choosing a Platform Approach
Philips’s strategic approach to the cloud is rapid but well thought out. HDSP supports dozens of AWS services in almost any combination. However, it offers only a subset of those services, the ones that Philips determined would give the best value to partners developing their own systems, with the fewest technical hiccups. “If each individual Philips business pursued its own cloud strategy and approach, it would result in silos, a lack of common identities, duplication of operational work, and obstacles to data sharing,” says Wiggins. “Also, there's no guarantee it would come together in a way that will best help our customers.”
Rather than starting the design of HSDP with a comprehensive list of features and functions, Philips focused on the specific business needs of its own divisions and early partners. It defined the functions and services that were critical—including core services such as identity and access management that apply equally to internal and external customers—before adding services specific to one type of business unit or partner. Philips decided to build HSDP as a platform on which others could build rather than a standalone service of its own. “We realized that if we wanted to be able to deliver the kinds of solutions our customers truly needed, we could only do that with a focused cloud platform strategy,” says Wiggins. “That was what led us to create HealthSuite Digital Platform on AWS.”
A Platform for the Future
Philips believes its ever-expanding use of the AWS Cloud is key to helping its customers provide healthcare consumers with the high-quality, increasingly connected care they expect. “We’ve gotten to the point where, with AWS, we can just count on HSDP being there and shift our focus to the applications being built there," says Wiggins. “Yes, it requires a different mindset around development and structuring your workforce. But once you achieve those shifts and no longer have to think about infrastructure, it enables a laser-sharp focus on customer needs and on building solutions that meet those needs.”
To learn more, visit aws.amazon.com/health.
Philips is a leading health technology company focused on improving people's health and enabling better outcomes along a continuum from healthy living and prevention to diagnosis, treatment, and home care. Philips leverages advanced technology as well as deep clinical and consumer insights to deliver integrated solutions.
Benefits of AWS
- Offers an open source cloud platform customers can build on
- Enables telemedicine to offer care in remote regions
- Stores 44 petabytes of data on AWS
- Can easily connect devices and collect, store, analyze, and share electronic health data
- Cuts costs by taking advantage of AWS services
AWS Services Used
Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) is an object storage service that offers industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance.
Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) is a web service that provides secure, resizable compute capacity in the cloud. It is designed to make web-scale cloud computing easier for developers.
AWS IoT Core
AWS IoT Core is a managed cloud service that lets connected devices easily and securely interact with cloud applications and other devices. AWS IoT Core can support billions of devices and trillions of messages, and can process and route those messages to AWS endpoints and to other devices reliably and securely.
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