Phillips, a company which has been in operation for over 100 years, has built itself on innovation and entrepreneurship. This focus has seen Phillips evolve and change in tandem with a number of revolutions. It started with the lighting revolution in 1891 and quickly shifted to product evolution by 1915. The company then ventured into the development of radios, televisions and electronic shavers in the mid 1900’s. The continuation of product development for image, sound and data continued as Phillips led the industry in the late 1900’s and into the 21st century with a number of innovative technologies at the time, such as video cassette recorders, CD’s and DVD’s, soon becoming a leading name in the entertainment industry.
With the turn of the century however, Phillips has looked to shake off this reputation as their focus has now shifted to leading innovation within the healthcare industry. Philips is today focussed on improving healthcare and enabling better outcomes across the health continuum from healthy living and prevention, to diagnosis, treatment and home care. Philips looks to leverage their technology and deep clinical and consumer insights to deliver integrated solutions to healthcare providers. The company provides diagnostic imaging, image-guided therapy, patient monitoring and health informatics, as well as in consumer health and home care.
The company is dedicated to it’s mission of aiming to change the lives of 3 billion people by 2025. To help the company further extend its footprint on the African continent, Phillips has appointed Jasper Westerink as the new CEO of Philips Africa.
IT News Africa spoke to Jasper about his new role, the targets he aims to achieve as well as some of the key aspects affecting Phillips and healthcare innovation.
1) What attracted you to the role of CEO at Phillips Africa ?
I have been with Phillips for 16 years, my whole career, and I have moved all over the world having started in Amsterdam. This will be the second time living in South Africa for my wife and I, we had a very good first experience in South Africa and are very happy to be coming back, so when this opportunity came we didn’t have to think about it. Over the last few years we have focused much more on health, today we have two main businesses, personal health and health systems. We aim to sharpen our portfolio to help people to live a healthier life with products such as air-fryers, air-cleaners, child care and dental health. These are just a few examples of our personal health section which is our consumer business. The other part is the health systems which looks at providing the complete process and solutions to hospitals. The type of solution is of course dependent on the setting and look they to resolve problems faced in those settings. So we are looking to create products and solutions that covers a person whole life, from birth until death. If looking at why Africa is so interesting, for me the continent is extremely vast with a lot of differences. Since we want to make an impact on as may lives as possible Africa is a wonderful opportunity for you to really make an impact and you can see the impact immediately. So the combination of a growing market and the fact that we can make a real impact is what attracted me to the role.
2) What are some of the targets you aim to achieve while in the position?
We have a number of districts that covers the whole of the African continent. So what we want to do is ensure that we partner where we can with NGO’s and governments to create successful projects. Governments can really benefit from this, so one of our targets is to share with them that this is more than just a piece of equipment, it is a full solutions and show them that in a partnership we can achieve tangible, clinically proven results which can be replicated. So building those partnerships have become more and more important because people have realised that it is not just the private sector but also the governments and NGO’s that have to work together to achieve targets in Africa. We really want to make a difference in the lives of ordinary people.
3) What are some of the challenges to improving healthcare in Africa and how do you plan to over come them?
In Kenya we have an innovation centre which looks to provide African solutions to African problems. We want to make an impact so we had a look at a number of areas, and noticed that pregnant ladies, child birth and all the aspects surrounding it is particularly vulnerable area in Africa so together with our innovation centre, Governments and NGO’s we have developed real African focused solutions. We have also developed community life centres, so in areas where there are little or no healthcare and access is an issue people can come to these centres, which is either small buildings or made of containers which we furbish here in South African and then ship them out. The idea is that people can come there and get tested, we have also created mobile backpack, which contains a number of our innovations, that allows our care workers to go out to small villages and conduct testing and then refer if needed, this stops people from going to hospital when they don’t need to thus combating overcrowding. For some people hospitals may be to far or expensive so again the backpacks can provide the necessary testing to determine if you okay or if you need to go to hospitals.
4) Are there any specific countries in Africa which you have earmarked as key areas for Phillips in driving the digitalisation of healthcare ?
We have five districts, meaning we have split up Africa into five areas which we focus on equally. The digital aspect is an integral part of all conversations we have, this will be in more modern hospitals and focuses on having our sophisticated systems in place such as accessibility to information and patient tracking. It is an integral part of all our solutions but the challenge is that there are currently a lot of small initiatives (apps) that are good but we need to bring it together so that they all work together. We want to be the ones who bring this together creating connected care and integration insuring that data flows. This will link the data to the patient and ensure that the doctor has the best possible flow, and in this space we will see a lot of development over the next few years.
It is clear that Jasper is not only passionate about Africa but is also passionate about making an impact in the lives of its people through the range of healthcare innovations being produced by Phillips.
By Dean Workman