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Helping people reprioritize sleep for better health

Duncan Tang

Name: Duncan Tang

Position: Head of Regional Marketing, Sleep and Respiratory Care (SRC), APAC (ASEAN, South Korea, Australia & New Zealand)

Philips' Global Sleep Survey revealed that over 100 million people have sleep apnea but only 20% are diagnosed. One-third of those surveyed have trouble falling asleep and maintaining it.

Wherever you are in the world, there's a good chance you don't sleep enough. If you snore or know someone who does, you may think it's just a normal, albeit annoying, part of sleeping.

Awareness of the study and improvement of people's sleep is still in its infancy. As Head of Regional Marketing of Philips' Sleep and Respiratory Care (SRC) division overseeing ASEAN, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand (ANZ), it's my job to help you take ownership of the quality of your sleep and what lack of it does to your body. One way I'm doing that is by improving awareness of sleep disorders and therapeutic solutions in these regions.

I started as Philips APAC Regional Marketing Manager based in China, but I eventually landed my current position, because of Philips culture in exposing talent to different markets and internal promotion opportunities.

Philips SRC serves both business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) markets, so my work allows me to enjoy consumer-oriented tasks, such as using digital marketing to engage customers – work I didn't have exposure to before since majority of healthcare devices are geared towards other businesses, like hospitals and research facilities. More than the variety of work, however, I never tire of seeing how the initiatives I helped launch improve the lives of our customers."

Impact of sleep on health

Lack of sleep makes one look tired and can cause one to be more irritable. It also affects concentration, immune system, and as if that's not bad enough, it can cause one to overeat too. While studies about the importance of sleep are gaining international attention, still more than 50% of adults worldwide don't have a regular sleep schedule, resulting in inadequate sleep and all the adverse effects mentioned.

Globally, 67% of people surveyed agree that sleep plays a vital role in their health but only 29% feel bad about not trying to improve their sleep habits. More people feel guilty about their lack of exercise and poor eating habits.

Lack of awareness and its impact to government healthcare systems

Whether by lack of awareness or available solutions, sleep isn't just a priority for many adults.

In Singapore, for instance, one in three people over 40 suffer from moderate to severe sleep apnea, the majority of them gasping for air during sleep because of soft tissues blocking their upper airways. Even if the existing treatment, Continuous Positive Airways Pressure (CPAP), is known to be effective in treating apnea, only about 5000 sleep tests are done and about 6000 CPAP or sleep therapy devices are prescribed annually in Singapore.

This lack of awareness is straining Singapore and other government healthcare systems worldwide. For instance, Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is related to hypertension and diabetes. Only on rare occasions will a patient be sent to a sleep lab and their undiagnosed OSA confirmed and treated with CPAP.

This confirms the importance of conducting proper sleep tests and treatments.

Free Sleep and Respiratory Care Training

To fight this lack of awareness in Southeast Asia, Philips opened the first Sleep and Respiratory Care Center in Singapore last month. Our aim is to increase the number of healthcare professionals trained in sleep and respiratory care within the region.

It's initiatives like these that I like most about how Philips innovates and solves market needs. We consider potential solutions to a problem based on the value it adds to the market first. We don't automatically assume the health problems we're up against can be solved with a commercial or product solution."

Other than the ASEAN region, I was also working hard to explore sleep and respiratory care market growth opportunities in China and South Korea. From 2011 to 2015 as the SRC business group (BG) market development & strategy project lead for both countries, I needed to determine the potential size of the market, specifically the intersection between the number of people affected by sleep & respiratory disorders and the good candidates for treatment through comprehensive market research.

These findings determined the size of investment in these two markets to capture the opportunity and unmet market needs. Since teamwork is a big part of Philips' culture, it was easy for me to work with the local team and advocacy partners in South Korea and China to get the information I needed. It didn't matter that we belonged to different departments, much less that we resided in different countries. Together, we gathered the data and created customized business and product solution to address the needs and challenges of each market. 

Although creating the long-term marketing plans were my sole responsibility, I never felt alone doing it. The sense of ownership and healthy competition in the teams I've worked with allowed us to cut through all the bureaucracy you'd normally put up with in big organizations."

How Philips is innovating sleep technology for the consumer market

Aside from enhancing the knowledge of healthcare professionals in the region, Philips also devised several technology solutions to improve people's sleep. Philips Dream Family, for example, is a series of at-home CPAP and ventilation solution products designed to help OSA patients get the treatment they need in the comfort of their own home.

Philips Smart Sleep, on the other hand, is the company's bet on wearable tech. Unlike other trackers that only record the amount and quality of your sleep, Smart Sleep is clinically proven to boost the wearer's deep sleep in real time using auditory stimulation.

A world of possibilities for engineers
Working at Philips can open doors to a world of possibilities for engineers, not just because of what you'll learn and the internal promotion opportunities but also because of the talented people you'll work with."

Many commercial leaders in Philips came from different backgrounds, some of them started out as engineers, scientists, and even financial experts. Myself, I started out as a technical professional before moving on to marketing Philips SRC division.

Find out more about careers at Philips and our Sleep Respiratory Care.

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