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Advancing Connected Care With Connected Devices

Advancing Hillrom’s Digital Vision, a Discussion with John Groetelaars, CEO play_circle_outline

Healthcare Insights From Our Leaders: John P. Groetelaars, President and CEO

Hillrom has great brand awareness in the bed side of the business but that doesn't really tell the whole story. Can you give an overview of what Hillrom does?

Hillrom is a very powerful brand in the mind of procurement and CNOs but we've diversified significantly over the last couple of years through acquisitions. So it might surprise many to find out that almost 25% of our revenue today is actually in connected care devices and not beds. So care communications. Connected devices that are utilized in a physician's office monitor patient monitoring devices from our acquisition of Welch Allyn. And that's the fastest growing part of our business is what we have been focused on is the connected care portion of our portfolio. The business is structured in three businesses. You know the historical legacy business around our beds in the ICU and med surge. We have a large and growing OR equipment and video integration business. And then we have our frontline care business, which incorporates Welch Allyn, has cardiology in it, vision care products as well as patient monitoring.

The pandemic really did move care to the home almost by necessity. Do you think that represents a permanent shift at this point?

I think a big part of that's going to be a permanent shift there probably once things, you know, return to a post pandemic environment, whatever that might look like. There'll probably be some natural return to conventional face-to-face in person care, but I think the telehealth horse has left the proverbial barn and is never to return. I think over the long time over the long-term certainly telehealth, but also remote patient monitoring and remote patient diagnostics are going to become more and more prevalent in the future as well as, you know, improving access to care just by going to a retail pharmacy setting and getting more of your care done at a Walgreens or CVS or a Walmart. Or a grocery store, that's getting into pharmacy.

It's fascinating to me how much care can be done through mobile devices more and more. I'm just seeing devices connected to other devices, grabbing information, sending it back, taking pictures, sending it to a care physician a caregiver of some kind or a specialist. Really spreading out our ability to have specialists reach into these remote locations where digital is going to take us.

It's really an exciting time. Innovation and connected devices are the start of that. And then, adding in this digital intelligence whether it's AI or human intelligence that can interpret the data that's being collected in a productive, meaningful way because you can collect a lot of data. And as you know, data is one thing but you have to have meaningful insights where someone can filter through that data. So it's actionable and usable in a way that integrates with their workflow and allows an enhanced productivity and not a step back from productivity. I think this whole space is clearly taking off. It's an exciting time to think about the future of healthcare in these new settings and how smartphones and connected devices and digital technology is really going to help enable the future.

How do you approach new products to ensure that they enhance the clinicians experience and don't add additional burdens there to their already you know stressful situation?

It really starts with understanding being in the shoes of those clinicians whether it's a doctor or a nurse or other caregiver and understanding their workflow and how do you integrate into that workflow without being disruptive to them. And then in fact, enhancing their experience as a caregiver. You know, the consumer smartphone is a great analogy, right? I mean the effort behind creating a frictionless experience with Uber or with Amazon or with any other online kind of B to C a successful business on a digital platform is what we're trying to achieve here. That doesn't come accidentally, right? I mean, there's a lot of work that goes into, as you know, and your audience knows to make things simple and concise and action and streamlined it takes a lot more effort to do that than to just collect data and dump it on somebody. So we spend a lot of time making sure that we're integrating with the workflow that we're not providing false information or information that's not need to know information at the time and filtering it in such a way where it's customizable interoperable, but also importantly actionable at the point that the data is being gathered. So it takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of effort and we'd rather be patient and do that the right way. So it has a longer trajectory of traction and success in the marketplace.

There's a lot of outside companies, a lot of digital companies, trying to come into healthcare. You're a healthcare company that is becoming digital and really emerging as a digital player. Which do you think is easier, which do you think is harder? Is it changing the culture to really adapt to digital? Or is it learning healthcare and coming in with the digital perspective?

I think they're both difficult actually. And I think that's where partnerships come into place. We have an important partnership with Microsoft as an example for cloud-based development, but also they're helping us with the internet of things, internet of medical things in some of our development work. And we do other development partnerships with companies like Apple and Amazon and others. So I think developing the right partnerships and having those become productive and meaningful is a better path forward because it's very hard for both. The tech companies are committed to healthcare and the difficulty of early really understanding how healthcare works and how it's not as easily scalable as a lot of consumer applications or business applications. By the other side, a conventional med tech company it doesn't have all the digital expertise and things from AI to cloud services, to even some software programming that we need some help with.

From a CEO perspective, there's so much change happening. There's so much investment. There's so much going on. How do you continue to make Hillrom a leader? How do you continue to keep them in the front of innovation? How do you foster that culture of innovation?

I think it's knowing our roots and knowing where we're strong. We have a very trusted brand in the eyes of nurses and physicians in their primary care office or in respiratory care as an example. Where we have a gap is with CIOs. And getting our names recognized within the CIO's office that Hillrom is a connected care company. And that over 25% of our business today is connected care. And that's the fastest growing part of the business and where we're investing. Our R and D dollars as well as our capital to make smart acquisitions in this area. I think the more we do that and prove that we can bring solutions that allow real-time patient monitoring in the home or in the hospital to intervene sooner and prevent expensive interventions and reduce costs and improve quality. I think those are the areas where we have the opportunity to shine and drive that real-time communication onto a device like a smartphone inside the physician's office or inside the acute care environment where you get real actionable data at the time you need it. And not from a data warehouse that it's been sitting there for a day, or even for six hours where it's no longer as valuable as real-time data that can be sent to a caregiver.