What's next for Philips – post-corona?
The Philips campus in Röntgenstraße is gradually coming back to life. The company switched to Working@Home in just a few days in mid March. Only employees working in production and field service engineers, who install and repair medical equipment in hospitals and doctors' practices, continued to work on site. In an interview with Hamburg News, Peter Vullinghs, Chairman of the Board Philips GmbH, CEO of Philips German-speaking countries (DACH) and Market Leader Health Systems, describes the gradual return to normality and the post-corona era.
Hamburg News: Mr. Vullinghs, Philips created a state-of-the-art working environment dubbed "Work Place Innovation" on the campus in Röntgenstrasse in 2015. What does work at Philips look like after corona?
Peter Vullinghs: I would like to start by saying that we have not yet overcome corona. We reopened our offices in Röntgenstrasse in late May. The premises had been redesigned for the current situation. Around 100 people are now in the office every day. We have space for over 200 and every person entering the office has to sign a list. We monitor the situation very closely. I expect that we will continue to focus on the current "work set-up" in the coming months. Working at home will become the rule even after the crisis. Digital tools, for example, video conferences, will be used more and the need for business trips will be scrutinized. Less travel means more efficient time management, cost savings and, most importantly, it protects the environment.
Hamburg News: Experts say COVID-19 could give us a digital boost. Could the pandemic prompt the development of new (medical) products at Philips?
Peter Vullinghs: The pandemic has driven us as a company to pool resources quickly and effectively for a major goal and with our partners. In a very short time, we have successfully doubled our production of important medical devices - such as in clinical ventilation - and are aiming for a fourfold increase by the third quarter of 2020. I am very proud of this. And during the crisis, we were able to put our innovative strength towards our products and solutions to meet the increased demand. We accelerated the introduction of some devices e.g. the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved our new acute patient monitors for controlling the vital signs of COVID-19 patients.
Hamburg News: Interest in video consultation has risen amid COVID-19. Is that paving the way to telemedicine?
Peter Vullinghs: Digital networking among patients and professionals per telemedicine was a crucial aspect of healthcare when the risk of infection had to be reduced through physical distance. At the same time, telemedical solutions have great benefits especially in reference to the COVID-19 pandemic. The added value of quickly available digital data became clear. By providing patients with care close to their homes and maintaining the same high standard of treatment, the care of intensive care patients was managed better. Specialists supported each other by exchanging data across locations and sectors, for instance, by calling in ultrasound experts for short-term, intensive care ultrasound examinations. Together, they decided on the care of the patient and improved it.
Hamburg News: Are you convinced of the advantages of telemedicine?
Peter Vullinghs: The advantages of such direct, location-independent exchange are obvious and will make telemedicine an essential part of a digitalised healthcare system in future. Of course, we at Philips are happy to drive this development forward. Our customer enquiries in the field of tele-intensive medicine have quadrupled. We support hospitals with our IT solutions for radiology, cardiology and intensive care, but also with solutions for networking service providers and patients.
Hamburg News: Will we see more digitalisation in the healthcare system and where do the greatest opportunities lie?
Peter Vullinghs: I am convinced that digital processes will improve our healthcare system in the long term. The greatest benefit of more digitalisation in the healthcare system lies mainly in the exchange of information and interdisciplinary, cross-sectoral work. Patient management is also gaining importance. Digital platforms connect patients more directly with practices and hospitals, thus easing the treatment path - from making appointments and preparations to online consultations.
Hamburg News: Mr. Vullinghs, thank you for the interview.
Interview by Yvonne Scheller
Royal Philips, headquartered in the Netherlands, is a leading supplier of healthcare technology especially diagnostic imaging, image-guided therapy, patient monitoring and healthcare IT as well as consumer healthcare products and home care. Philips employs around 80,000 people in over 100 countries and earned EUR 19.5 billion in turnover last year. Philips GmbH Market German-speaking countries (DACH) is based in Hamburg.