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Vol 21, No. 12, December 2017   |   Issue PDF view/purchase
Digital health technology to combat world’s number one killer
Diederik Zeven says the key to fighting cardiovascular disease still lies in early detection and leveraging on data and technology to decide on the best treatment strategy tailored for each patient.

Globally, cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death, with an estimated 17.7 million fatalities in 2015 according to the World Health Organization. [1] This represents almost a third of all global deaths and is set to increase even further. Despite being the leading cause of death, the risk of developing cardiovascular disease can be lowered through simple lifestyle changes such as eating more fresh food and taking ownership of one’s health.

New advances in the industry such as digital health technology are bringing healthcare providers, patients, health technology companies and other stakeholders together in a renewed fight against the world’s leading killer.

New challenges call for a smarter approach to treating cardiovascular disease

An aging, fast growing population and the rise in chronic diseases pose challenges for healthcare providers looking to improve the standard of care while still delivering value to a larger pool of patients. In order to ensure a sustainable healthcare system in the future, we need to re-evaluate how healthcare is being provided and managed, as well as to integrate new technological innovations throughout the organization and across disciplines, driving efficiency and enhancing patient care.

Healthcare organizations in the Asia Pacific region are already poised to drive this change – McKinsey predicts that by 2020, Asia-Pacific is expected to surpass the European Union as the world’s second-largest med-tech market after the United States. [2]

Key to the fight against cardiovascular disease still lies in early detection and leveraging on data and technology to decide on the best treatment strategy tailored for each patient. With cardiovascular disease on the rise in Asia Pacific, this has resulted in greater demand for minimally invasive surgery. This is done through image-guided therapy (IGT), which offers the benefits of reduced patient trauma, shorter recovery times and offers a life-line to patients who would not be able to withstand the trauma of open surgery. However, this procedure is challenging. Without the ability to see or feel the organs, the procedure requires utmost precision and timely execution, guided by IGT.

Companies like Philips are advancing technological development of IGT. Azurion, the latest IGT innovation launched early 2017 provides more effective imaging, measurement and navigation, and also enables clinicians to conduct procedures more quickly and confidently.

Technology is already transforming the way medical procedures are done in the interventional lab, but beyond this, there needs to be greater partnership between healthcare providers, governments, the public and private sectors as well as other stakeholders within the health system to empower patients to take ownership of their own health.

Breaking the boundaries with connected care technology

At present, the emergence of connected care devices such as health monitoring devices and mobile health apps provide patients with the means to keep track of their own health in real-time and increase awareness of their wellbeing. There have been positive strides in the uptake of connected care devices in countries such as South Korea, which has one of the lowest rates of death by cardiovascular disease.

Philips’ Future Health Index study has found that those in South Korea as compared to their global counterparts are more likely to track health indicators such as weight (29% vs 23%) and physical activity (19% vs 15%), indicating that the use of connected care devices can enable individuals to reach their goals towards better health.

For healthcare providers, an uptake of connected care technologies would also be crucial to ease the manpower shortage in the healthcare industry – the world currently faces a shortage of 7.2 million health-care workers and by 2035 this number is projected to increase to 12.9 million by 2035. [3] This has impacted cardiac care units and hospital teams which have become leaner and are leveraging on digital health technologies to assist in patient care.

Australia saw the launch of its first remote intensive care unit monitoring program in 2016, a partnership between Philips, Sydney’s Macquarie University and Emory Healthcare in Atlanta, US. The eICU solution leverages on advanced audio-visual technology and algorithms to allow Sydney-based Emory Healthcare critical care specialists to provide continuous night-time monitoring of patients back in the United States during daytime hours, allowing clinical staff to maintain a high level of patient care round the clock.

In the future we would see digital health technology open new possibilities for further advancement of interventional treatment and earlier detection of cardiovascular issues. However, when it comes to getting ahead of heart disease, the old adage that prevention is better than cure still holds true.

It is essential for consumers to make a conscious effort to adopt a healthy lifestyle and leverage on digital health technology to be informed of their health condition. When this is done in collaboration with healthcare providers, governments, the public and private sectors and other stakeholders within the health system, the potential to dethrone the world’s number one killer can then become a reality.


  1. World Health Organization, Media Centre, Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs) Fact sheet, updated May 2017.
  2. McKinsey & Company, MedTech in Asia. Committing at scale to raise standards of care for patients
  3. World Health Organization, Media Centre, Global health workforce shortage to reach 12.9 million in coming decades

About the Author

Diederik Zeven
General Manager
Health Systems
Philips ASEAN Pacific

Diederik Zeven heads up the Health Systems business and is responsible for overseeing the diverse portfolio of products, services and solutions across the region, pursuing the company’s growth in the diagnostic imaging, image-guided therapy, patient monitoring and health informatics spaces. A Philips veteran, Diederik first joined Philips in 1994 and was based in Hong Kong, where he worked on large scale healthcare projects in China and India. He has since worked in various roles in the Americas, Africa and the Middle East, including senior leadership roles in Dubai and Turkey, before his current role based in Singapore.

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