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Salesforce and Royal Philips NV have partnered in an ambitious venture to build a health platform that will connect healthcare providers, insurers, and healthcare consumers.

The two companies envision an open technology platform that will collect health data from a wide range of clinical machines and information systems, and also from wellness apps and devices outside the healthcare system.

A new wave of health platforms from large technology companies (like Google and Apple) has focused mainly on wellness and fitness data from wearable consumer devices. But many in the healthcare industry feel that aggregating that kind of data won’t directly help the healthcare system.

The Philips/Salesforce platform might be different. Judging by the webcast the companies held early Thursday to introduce the platform, the focus is more clinical than consumer. In fact, Philips CEO Frans van Houten said as much in his opening remarks.

Phillips is already deeply entrenched in healthcare systems worldwide. Its medical devices, health information platforms, home healthcare technology, and clinical monitoring systems are commonplace in hospitals. Phillips says that 190 million patients were monitored by its clinical systems last year.

The new platform will pull data from those kinds of machines and systems, as well as from electronic health records and other healthcare information systems.

When all that consumer and patient data is collected in the platform, Salesforce and Philips want to use Big Data techniques to mine it for insights on how treat patients more effectively and efficiently. This will translate into decision support systems used by doctors and nurses at the point of care.

Salesforce will provide the cloud-based platform itself, and also a flexible development environment from which to quickly build and deploy new health applications for healthcare providers, consumers and insurers.

Salesforce has long been a proponent of the “Internet of Things” and the idea that everything should be connected. The main problem with the healthcare system is vast number of its machines, systems, and devices that aren’t connected in meaningful ways.

The costliest patients

Philips and Salesforce say they will initially develop apps that focus on at-risk patient populations, like seniors and people with chronic diseases. Philips’ van Houten says that in the U.S. 75 percent of the money spent on healthcare each year goes to treating people in those groups.

And a big part of the reason those groups use some much healthcare is because they can’t or don’t take care of themselves, and they have poor lines of communication with caregivers. So they often find their way back to the health system to use up more resources.

“Patients with chronic disease need a way to communicate with doctors and nurses in real time,” said Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said during a live webcast early Thursday.

To that end, the two companies have already developed two apps.

The first, called “Philips eCareCompanion,” is used to collect various kinds of health data from patients at home. The app connects with devices like fall monitors (for seniors), activity trackers, blood sugar meters, and medication monitors. The app constantly tracks this data, and sends an alert to caregivers if anything goes into the red.

Another new app, called “Philips eCareCoordinator,” will be used by doctors and nurses to manage hundreds of at-risk patients at a time. The new platform will use Philips telehealth programs to deliver care to patients at home. Philips says these systems are already being used to good effect by Banner Health to treat remote patients in parts of Arizona.

The first two apps will be sold to healthcare organizations (like Banner) that assume risk and get paid based on the overall health of their covered lives. The apps could potentially help save millions by reducing costly hospital readmissions by helping patients stay well while they’re outside the healthcare system.

Philips and Salesforce will share in the revenue generated by sales of the first two apps, Salesforce EVP of Salesforce1 Clarence So tells VentureBeat.

Salesforce and Philips claim that because of the flexibility of the Salesforce platform, they were able to create the apps in six months. The apps will become available later this summer, the companies say.

Salesforce’s Benioff said the platform may one day be able to connect to existing consumer health data platforms like Apple’s HealthKit, Samsung’s SAMI, and the newly-announced Google Fit.

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