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Joseph (Joe) Cain knows only too well that the line between life and death is thinner than a human hair. 

As the Business Manager of Philips Australia and New Zealand’s (ANZ) Population Health Management, Joe spends a significant portion of his time visiting health districts across the country. He meets the front line medical staff on whom thousands of lives depend. He hears their accounts of triumph and loss, ecstasy and despair. 

The doctors and nurses Joe meets are miracle workers. But they are only human, and sometimes even the most highly skilled clinicians can miss the subtle signs of patient deterioration. In providing telehealth solutions to both doctors and nurses at the bedside and at home, Joe’s business area of Philips finds itself at the heart of this mission.

Our key objective, Joe explains, is to build a “virtual hospital” that leverages the power of big data and predictive analytics to create a healthcare system that is connected, aware and adaptive to patient’s needs. One of the main cogs in the company’s new care machine is the Emory Healthcare eiCU virtual hospital program, which enables one senior physician and three senior nurses, sitting in front of screens in a remote office in Perth, to monitor between 150 and 200 critical care beds across multiple hospitals in Atlanta, Georgia. 

​​​​​​​“Its uses are twofold,” says Joe. “Take for example the scenario where a doctor at the bedside has a resource they can tap into via video conferencing and say, ‘remote hub, can you tell me what’s going on with this patient?’ That’s one case. 

“The other is the nurse at the bedside who is busy looking after a car crash victim and perhaps misses the slight deterioration in the vital signs of the 85-year-old with pneumonia who is in bed six. In that case, the hub would contact the bedside team and say, ‘hey we’ve noticed this, please do x, y and z procedures’.”

The remote medical staff are supported by a suite of advanced, proprietary algorithms that constantly analyze patient data, create a shortlist of those who are most at risk, and send ‘smart alerts’ to bedside staff before a patient’s health starts to deteriorate. 
In short, this program provides hospitals with 24/7 centralized patient monitoring that helps to cut costs and save lives. 
In fact, a study of a virtual hospital prototype revealed that this care model shortened a patient’s length of stay by 17%, saw a reduction in costs of care per case by 16%, and resulted in 26% fewer patient deaths or discharge to hospice and led to 36% fewer patient falls [1]. 

Launched off the back of a successful Sydney-based pilot project, the partnership sees highly experienced intensivists and critical care nurses based at Royal Perth Hospital provide critical support to doctors and nurses in Atlanta using the virtual hospital program. 

Importantly, the program enables staff in Perth to provide nighttime critical care support to patients in Atlanta, during daytime hours in Perth. In a 2017 study, it estimates a 20% reduction in mortality rates with the implementation of future tele-ICUs. 

“You have to think to yourself, 'we're all stakeholders in this health system in Australia, right?’ If I get in a car crash in Melbourne and am taken to a hospital, my odds of survival are 20% better if I’m taken to a hospital that has this program,” says Joe. 

The program’s impressive results soon caught the attention of the Australian media, with 7 News Perth running a TV segment on the project in May 2018. During the piece, Dr Timothy Buchman of Emory Healthcare explained how the program worked, Philips ASEAN Pacific CEO Caroline Clark discussed the benefits, and Roger Cook, State Minister for Health for West Australia, described the technology as a game changer for hospitals across the country.  

Joe says landing the TV news spot was one of his proudest moments at Philips. 

“It took a long time to set up,” he explains. 

Philips, however, understands that health care extends far beyond the boundaries of a physical hospital. Which is why it dedicates just as much time and resources to developing its ambulatory telehealth programs. 

“Through a hub-and-spokes model, we’re monitoring hundreds of patients across hundreds of health districts in the United States,” says Joe. “And then we’re monitoring them across the transition into their home and into recovery.” 

In fact, in Joe’s mind, building a “seamless” bridge between the hospital and home is one of the company’s greatest achievements – an ongoing contribution to modern healthcare typified by the company’s partnership with Queensland’s West Moreton Health. 

“Two of the biggest challenges faced in regional Australia are poorer health literacy among patients and a shortage of senior physicians,” says Joe. “And so we partnered with West Moreton Health to establish MeCare, a wraparound service that keeps patient with multiple chronic diseases who are frequent hospital users – those admitted to hospital at least three times a year – out of hospital.”

The first project of its kind for Philips in Australia, MeCare aims to improve health outcomes in Queensland by putting patients in the driving seat of their recovery.

The program requires patients to regularly take their own blood pressure, pulse and weight and submit their data, using the Philips eCareCompanion, to a secured cloud-based server that is monitored by a multidisciplinary clinical team ready to intervene when a patient falls outside the parameters deemed optimal for their current stage of recovery. 

“These patients have had the experiences of siloes in health services that require them to use their own initiative to book consultations with their GP, cardiologist and diabetes specialist – and to personally keep track of their advices,” says Joe. “MeCare provides one point of contact and empowers the hospital to proactively reach out to the patient to improve their care and wellbeing.”

As of May 2018, the partnership had reduced annual bed days by 17%, as well as a 53% reduction in potential emergency room visits for this group of patients [3], decreased inpatient care costs by 27% and also led to a 28% reduction in potentially preventable hospitalizations [4]. 

“That’s not because we’re discharging people out of the hospital earlier than they should be, it’s because we’re reducing patient management complications,” says Joe.

Helping clients daily with these solutions make for rewarding work, says Joe. But fortunately it’s not the only reason why he regards Philips as a great company for which to work. 

Recruited from Philips’ global Commercial Leadership Program, Joe was hired in 2014 to grow Philips nascent Population Health division into a mature business in Australia and New Zealand.

“There was a lot of pressure to perform,” he says. “But the significant resources and support I had access to helped take the pressure off, and helped me realize that the task was far from insurmountable.”

According to Joe, being surrounded by supportive, competent managers instilled within him the belief he needed to reach his goals. Thanks to the support, he achieved what he set out to: he built a growing business from scratch. 

“We earned our stripes,” he says. “Now I want to share our experiences with other countries, to help them develop their own virtual hospital businesses… it just makes sense. Utilizing time zones is only the beginning. Setting up global telehealth models – that’s the future.”

​​​​​​​©Philips 2018. All rights reserved.
[3] Compared to a pre-MeCare trend. Without intervention through MeCare, the emergency department visits for this group were predicted to continue to increase.
[4] Compared to a baseline average of potentially preventable hospitalizations without the MeCare program.
Stay in touch with Philips! Keep up to date with the industry, #LifeatPhilips moments and career opportunities.