We all recognize that digital technologies are firmly embedded in our lives – the Internet of Things is becoming a reality, growing from 15 billion smart devices in 2015 to at least 50 billion by 2020. It is easier than ever before to connect data-generating appliances, machines and even complete industries to the internet. As a result, we are also creating vast amounts of data, faster and more detailed than ever before – 90% of all data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone.

This big data revolution has led to the emergence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is about combining connected devices with cloud computing, big data analytics and artificial intelligence – our critical infrastructures will become smart.

Addressing the needs of a growing, aging world population

So how can this revolution help us all to address some of the big challenges we are facing in healthcare? The world’s population is growing and aging – by 2020 , for the first time in history, the number of people aged 60 years and older will outnumber children younger than 5 years. Poor diet and sedentary behaviour have led to an increase in obesity and lifestyle-related disease and a huge rise in chronic medical conditions. Heart disease, cancers, respiratory disease and diabetes are now killing 31 million people a year according to the World Health Organization. Healthcare costs are spiraling out of control – according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, global health spend is rising an average 5.2% per year and is set to bust $9 trillion by 2018. This is simply unsustainable.

If we are to ensure that healthcare remains affordable and widely available for future generations, we need to radically rethink how we provide and manage it – in collaboration with key health system partners – and apply the technology that can help achieve these changes. And this will play out in the merging of the consumer and professional healthcare spaces.

Health-conscious consumers are already comfortable using apps to track and take more control of their personal health, while governments are looking for ways to deliver better and more affordable healthcare beyond the hospital walls. They want to prevent diseases by encouraging healthy living, and support people with chronic diseases at home. Healthcare professionals are seeking ways to cooperate more effectively and deliver first-time-right diagnoses and targeted treatments.

Creating an interconnected health continuum

Thanks to the digital and big data revolution, we can start to do what was previously unthinkable – to improve patient outcomes and lower healthcare costs, while delivering personalized care to each individual.

Today, over 275 million hospital patients are monitored by Philips equipment annually, nearly a billion people in emerging markets have access to our diagnostic imaging, and we manage 18 petabytes of imaging data for healthcare providers.

Starting from this solid base, our vision is of an interconnected health continuum where the healthcare and consumer worlds integrate to put people at the heart of a holistic system that monitors them continuously and provides answers at every stage of life – from helping babies feed safely, ensuring food is cooked nutritiously, and aiding people to take responsibility for their own health – right the way through to world-beating hospital treatment and home care. It's going to make a big difference to all our lives, and it's something we're immensely excited about.

Empowering people through integrated solutions

At Philips we are realizing this vision by thinking beyond individual products and towards harnessing the power of integrated solutions – a combination of hardware, software, and services that Philips innovates with our partners and customers to solve a particular problem.

As an enabling platform, we’ve built a cloud service – our HealthSuite digital platform – designed to safely and securely bring together data from a multitude of devices healthcare systems and customers, connecting individual, clinical and research data. It enables to better understand, identify and treat diseases sooner, design more efficient and effective treatment workflows, and shape solutions to address population health issues at scale.

Healthcare continues to move outside the hospital, and into our homes and everyday lives. With leading doctors and psychologists, for example, we've developed personal health programs designed around patients to catalyze sustainable behavioural change. Through a combination of connected health measurement devices, app-based personalized programs and secure, cloud-based data analysis, we empower people to take better care of their health.

And starting in 2013, we collaborated with Banner Health in the US to create the Intensive Ambulatory Care (IAC) program, treating patients with complex chronic conditions – the top 5% who account for 50% of healthcare spend. Through this at-home telehealth program, patients are monitored from their homes and cared for remotely by multi-disciplinary teams of professionals. Within six months, this program had reduced hospitalization rates, hospital stay length, and professional and outpatient services so much that the cost of care was reduced by 27%.

Our strong opinion is not only that prevention is better than any cure, but that integrated, digital connected healthcare systems will give millions more people the opportunity to live healthy lives, with better prevention, quicker diagnoses, shorter hospital stays, better outcomes, longer independent living, and lower healthcare costs.

Radically rethinking healthcare together

This vision of an interconnected health continuum demands a behaviour change from the industry, including us. It demands that we tear up the old rules about how businesses work. The healthcare industry is fragmented – that cannot continue.

We need to look beyond healthcare to learn from other industries. We need to ensure the privacy and security of healthcare data, but at the same time enable it to be shared among the right people and used to build new solutions. We need to radically rethink how we partner and how we share risk. We need to move from transactional relationships to relationships where we all work together as part of an ecosystem – it’s about co-creation with start-ups, with universities, with other large companies, and with patients and customers. With this shared responsibility to enable value-based healthcare comes a shared opportunity to shape the future of our world.

Author: Frans van Houten, CEO Royal Philips. He is participating in the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos.