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Prioritizing the personal touch

The value of human interaction in delivering personalized healthcare programs



From clothing to customer service, travel to education, the age of personalization is upon us; and healthcare is no exception to the rule. As individuals increasingly take active involvement in diagnosing and managing their own health – and shift the onus of care away from being solely the responsibility of practitioners and providers – the potential to deliver truly tailored healthcare programs becomes more tangible every day.  

world health day

One area where personalization can make a real difference is in managing and preventing chronic illnesses such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease. As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, the global threat – and the cost – of chronic diseases is a very real one. And while we know that almost 90% of cases can be prevented with the right lifestyle changes – exercising more, eating better, quitting smoking – getting at-risk patients to make those changes remains the primary barrier to effective prevention.


We know the technology exists that can help patients start to proactively develop better habits – indeed, at Philips we are instrumental in developing several of these devices and solutions. However, what we have found is it takes more than simply hardware or software to shift ingrained behaviors; true motivation comes from that which makes us human – connections with other people.


Devices can offer meaningful measurement, and algorithms can provide logical recommendations, but it is often the social element – the ‘human touch’ – that is likely to make an individual take action. For any personalized program to work, it is hugely important to factor in the relationship between the people who deliver and receive it.

world health day

It was with precisely this insight in mind that Philips designs its personalized health programs. An excellent example is the partnership we entered into with Allianz Worldwide Partners, designing a program that combines technology with personalized coaching. Participants receive one or more devices, a smart phone app, digital content and regular coaching sessions conducted by a healthcare professional, such as a doctor, a nutritionist or a physiologist, depending on the specific need. The healthcare professionals give participants the chance to get more insight into their lifestyle, get personal advice and help change their habits.


In pilots conducted to date, we’ve seen that this kind of program – with the coaching element and the all-important human interaction – experiences less than a 10% dropout rate. Call it positive peer pressure, call it the desire for social inclusion, but the impact of the human connection cannot be overstated.

world health day

As we approach World Health Day, and note the startling numbers predicted for the spread of diabetes over the next few decades, it is more important than ever that we focus on finding effective ways to combat chronic disease. We know we have and will develop the technological capabilities, but it is the emphasis on personalization that, in combination, will have the most impact.

Caroline Clarke

CEO Philips Population Health Management

Caroline joined Royal Philips in November 2008 as CEO Personal Care. Caroline was responsible for the global Personal Care business for five years until January 2014. In January 2014, Caroline created a new business proposition for Philips, Personal Health Solutions, which is at the core of Philips Strategy to deliver health technology innovation, with a focus on healthy living and disease prevention. In January 2016, Philips established a new business, Population Health Management, to focus on helping reshape and optimize population health management so people can live longer, healthier lives. Caroline holds a bachelor's degree in Business Studies. She is a graduate of Harvard Business School Advanced Management Program.

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