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[Herald Interview] Pandemic brings virtual care front and center

Philips stresses importance of ‘health continuum,’ empowering people to stay on top of health

Rianne Meijerman, head of consumer marketing at Royal Philips (Philips Korea)
Rianne Meijerman, head of consumer marketing at Royal Philips (Philips Korea)

Health care is definitely an industrial sector that has been greatly influenced by the recent COVID-19 pandemic.

Rianne Meijerman, head of consumer marketing at multinational health care solution provider Royal Philips, sums up the latest changes in the market as an “acceleration of virtual care” and the “health continuum.”

“This pandemic has brought virtual health care to the front and center,” Meijerman said in a virtual interview with The Korea Herald.

Virtual care models allow patients to engage with caregivers through digital channels, like two-way video. And caregivers support one another in hot zones with things like remote guidance of front-line workers, she explained -- using cameras and streaming vital signs data to help with diagnosis and treatment protocols.

“Philips’ approach to virtual care, which enables patients to digitally connect with their health care providers, is all about connecting care for the patient across care settings,” the executive said. “We’ve been working on this for years, and with the pandemic its clinical and economic benefits have become clearer than ever and adoption has surged.

“It has shown that our natural resistance to change can be overcome when there’s a clear and present need to do so,” she added.

Over the last eight months, the health care sector has witnessed several changes in consumer health trends, the Philips exec said.

“From stepping up personal hygiene and making homes healthier to protecting ourselves preventatively,” she said, “our social responsibility grows and we see an enormous acceleration of digitalization on all fronts.”

While overall, demand for consumer products was significantly down in the first half of the year, Philips saw greater demand for solutions that make home a healthier and more comfortable place to be, according to Meijerman.

“We saw more demand for products such as electric shavers when barbers were closed, hair removal when salons were closed and blenders to increase the vitamin intake in an easy way,” she explained.

“The trend of investing more in solutions at home is still ongoing and we see that back in different categories, from upgrading your coffee machine to innovations for home cooking and from toothbrushes that can be connected to our Philips Sonicare app for comprehensive oral health to personalized hair dryers with a digital infrared sensor. Personal hygiene and healthy living are prioritized.”

At IFA 2020, a consumer electronics trade show that took place online earlier this month, Philips introduced an upgraded edition of its electric toothbrush the Sonicare DiamondClean 9000, putting greater emphasis on personal hygiene and especially oral health.

“Philips wants to empower people to stay on top of their health. An example of that is our Philips Sonicare DiamondClean 9000 -- an electric toothbrush that connects with an app that gives you personalized feedback on how you brush and what you can do to improve your brushing routine,” she said.

She introduced Philips’ health continuum initiative to empower people to live healthier lives from healthy living to disease prevention, diagnosis, treatment and home care.

“It is important to get diagnosed and receive treatment at a hospital, but in the long run, health care in daily life must be preceded as a precaution before the actual outbreak,” she said. “This is why Philips introduces personalized digital health care solutions to enable more systematic and professional home care, especially as spending more time at home is expected in the future.”

Considering that global consumers are becoming more aware of the risks of bacterial and viral infections and the importance of personal hygiene and health care during the pandemic, Philips is responding actively.

“Philips is putting more focus on healthy living and prevention for the post-COVID-19 era, and stepping up virtual care models, which enable people to digitally connect with their health providers, including tele-dentistry,” she said.

For the South Korean market, Meijerman said the company plans to introduce an ultraviolet sanitizer for toothbrushes.

“In terms of preventing the spread of germs and bacteria on the brush head, we’re planning to launch UV Sanitizer as an exclusive model in Korea for the first time,” she said.

The Philips Sonicare UV Sanitizer uses a specially designed UV light bulb that helps kill up to 99 percent of germs and bacteria on the brush head, which has been proven through clinical trials.

“It helps users to more thoroughly manage oral health as well as personal hygiene,” she said. “As oral health is directly related to overall health, it is no exaggeration to say that the first step in proper brushing habits is hygienic toothbrush management.”

Philips is seeing a steeper growth of the oral care market in Korea, the executive noted.

“It is interesting that the oral care market showed a steeper growth with the increase in sales of oral products for removing bad breath and germs in the mouth as mask wearing became a new normal amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”

By Song Su-hyun (