Date:   Friday , June 01, 2012

Philips Innovation Labs in Bangalore, recently showcased the in roads it has made into developing India specific innovative products. In a candid chat, Dr Wido Menhardt, Head of Philips Innovation Campus, Bangalore shared his insights into the Indian Healthcare market, the vacuum, opportunities and plans at Philips to lead the market.

Dr. Wido Menhardt is a seasoned technology executive with a passion for taking technology ideas from scratch to market, and to then scale them to volume deployment.

He started his career at Philips medical systems in Hamburg (Germany) and Eindhoven (Netherlands) where he authored more than 50 papers in journals, and at conferences, presented on topics ranging from MRI Physics to Fuzzy Logic. Wido has spent his career in software development and executive management, in multinationals like Kodak and Philips. He has also worked with start-ups in innovative display technologies, artificial vision, and search engines. He has eight patents to his name.

Dr. Wido holds a PhD in Computer Science from Hamburg University, and an MSc in Physics from the Technical University of Vienna. He has studied, lived, and worked in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Canada and the U.S.

Healthcare Technology and Indian Market

Access to healthcare and assisting healthcare professionals in their daily work with technology is going to be a big opportunity. We have a shortage of skilled doctors in India, and may not have doctors at all in rural areas. By providing access to patient information anywhere, through mobiles, cloud based solutions, and computerized decision support we can help put an end to this problem. If a doctor is in a rural area analyzing a patient and then entering that information on a mobile, that goes into a cloud, so somebody else can look at that data and provide feedback and help the doctor in the rural area to decide on the treatment. You will also see more and more sensors that connect to mobiles or internet, devices like blood pressure cuff or electrocardiograph that measures the patientís vital signs. These devices can be online by themselves, through a mobile device or through near field connectivity. This whole chain that includes sensors, mobiles, and cloud based intelligence has tremendous potential to revolutionize healthcare. In the developed world it is all about consumerism, now consumers will start getting more power in their healthcare. In developing countries this will make access to healthcare easier.

India Vs Developed Market

India is still very much behind on Clinical IT, so this means managing patient data in a digital form is nonexistent to a large extent. If you go and take an MRI you still get a film here in India, of course you can ask for a CD, but if you come back a month later you can be assured that your data will not be there in the clinic. So connecting all the healthcare information and storing all the healthcare information, managing patients in hospitals or in healthcare systems digitally is yet to be built. In U.S. or in other developed countries we already have several systems that do this, but in India it is different and these systems cannot be adapted and it has to be developed separately. For example in developed countries the healthcare payment is either carried out by insurance or National Healthcare Systems where as in India there are a lot of out of the pocket payments, this alone makes the scenario a lot different here. The growth here will come from equipping the healthcare systems with technology that is built especially addressing all the differences of this market.

Innovations from India

In healthcare IT in the U.S. there is no such thing as UID, in India also it is not there yet, but it has the potential to create a huge opportunity. You take an X-ray or a CT scan from one hospital, then at some later point of time you go and take another X-ray or scan from a different hospital, now the doctor from the second hospital wants to see your previous X-ray or scan but they are in some other hospital. So the patient needs to carry the films or the CD around. Unifying all these UIDs or identifiers will help change this situation, it will give doctors access to the data of their patients from any other health centers. The doctor can use the UID and access his patientís medical history easily. This process is called federation and the federation solution for Philips Healthcare IT is developed out of the Indian center.

Another contribution from Indian Innovation center is CAT scanner simulators. When they developed, the engineers often need to use actual cat scanners to see whether what they are working on actually works. A real CAT scanner costs a couple of hundred thousand dollars, and for a significant CAT scanner development program they need dozens of CAT scanners just for the engineers and this will result in a huge cost. In order to save these costs we have developed simulators, both software simulators and hardware simulators at different levels. These can replace the real cat scanners and get the job done at much lesser cost.

Another contribution of the India innovation center is in the lighting area. When you get a batch of LED bulbs from any company there will be color variations among different LEDs. Even if they are all red or white, there will be minute color variations between them. But when you are manufacturing fixtures with multiple LEDs, you have to make sure that all the LEDs are of the same color. So the manufacturers take the LEDs, measure the color and mix and match the LEDs from different boxes if necessary. We have developed sophisticated software for this in India.

Our portable music players connect to the Philips cloud backend to do software upgrades and collect certain statistics of their usage and errors. The software that runs in these players as well as the software in the cloud backend is developed in the India center. These are some of the many innovations and developments that the Indian center is carrying on. Staying at the Forefront of Technology
The enthusiasm and the commitment of the people here is unparallel. Our engineers are very driven and curious and they stay up to date with all the publications and developments.

Also once a week we have a tech talk inside the company where either one of our engineers or somebody we invited from outside talks about a particular topic to educate the rest. We have special interest groups in the campus, for example a special interest group on interoperability, and this is a very critical element for all of our businesses. We also make sure that we strengthen our technical career path. Irrespective of the size of the team each seniors will enjoy the same power dynamics.

Our vision is to take control of the Indian local market and to drive innovation for India and the entire world from here in India. All MNC are now creating a very strong process culture and I think it is a very essential part. To make sure that you do things in a repeatable, traceable and documentable way you have to create a strong process culture and we have done this. Also we have a culture that entertains innovation. My vision is to take this spark of innovation and channel it properly so that it becomes all the things that we need it to be. With it we also create an innovation engine here that drives innovation for the world.

In Asia people normally do not move fast enough and they would want to do things the same way they used to do it and that is a major challenge for a person like me.

(As told to Christo Jacob)