Kathleen M. Dallessio
Philips Medical Systems (Best, The Netherlands), a division of
Royal Philips Electronics, has undergone several significant
changes in recent years. In December 2000, the company acquired
ADAC Laboratories. This was followed by acquisitions of Agilent's
Healthcare Solutions Group in August 2001 and Marconi Medical
Systems in October 2001. In October 2002, Jouko Karvinen was
appointed as president and CEO.
A native of Finland, Mr. Karvinen came to Philips from the ABB
Group Ltd. (Zurich, Switzerland), where he headed the Automation
Technology Products Division. He holds a Master of Science degree
in Electronics and Industrial Economics from Tampere University of
Technology in Finland.
With the integration of the acquired companies now complete,
Philips Medical Systems' business units include general and cardiac
X-ray, ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed
tomography (CT), nuclear medicine, positron emission tomography
(PET), radiation oncology systems, image and information
management, customer support, healthcare consulting and
financial/leasing services, and cardiac and monitoring systems. The
company employs more than 22,000 people worldwide with
representation in over 100 countries and annual sales of
approximately EUR 6.5 billion ($5.8 billion).
Mr. Karvinen recently sat down with
to talk about the changes at Philips and the future of radiology
technology in general.
What is the biggest news from Philips this year?
The first news is that we are Philips Medical Systems now; we are
not a company trying to integrate five companies. If you looked at
our booth at RSNA 2002, if you talk to our people, if you look at
platforms like Vequion, if you look at other new products based on
a combination of technologies, that is the proof of what we have
had. We have had a year of integration, now we are getting out of
it. We are fully, absolutely 150% focused on serving our customers
and learning with them. That is what I think you could see at RSNA
2002. We are no longer a combination of Philips, Agilent, Marconi,
and so on. We are Philips Medical Systems, and this is how we go
forward. Then you can start address all of the various modalities,
such as the new Vequion, which is unique, I think, in that it is
hardware independent. I think it will build a scalable platform for
I have spent quite a bit of my time in front of the
customers--more than I ever thought I would--and I will keep doing
that, not only at RSNA but overall.
What have you found that customers want most?
I'll use a quote from the dean of the nursing school at Michigan
State University as an example. They are looking for "supplier
partners who first listen, and then say that they are the best
anyway." They want partners who are willing to share their future
plans, willing to interact in the development process, and,
clearly, do not say, "I have a solution for you," before they ask
what the problem is.
For example, look at information technology specifically. Many
suppliers promise, "I have the solution." Yes they might, but if
you want to work with your customer today, next year, and 5 years
out, you'd better listen first. I think Vequion addresses that very
specifically with its open platform, hardware-independent
scalability, and interoperability, not only within the Philips
modalities, but with competitors' products as well. That is what
customers tell us that they want from us: to be a partner, to be
there on all levels from CEO to the field support, on the day we
get the order, the day we ship, and for many years after that.
What do you think are the most important factors currently driving
the radiology technology market?
There is an endless race going on. Who has how many slice CT? We
had the first FDA approval, but I'm sure there are many people who
claim to be number one. With MRI, with the Teslas we have, we also
believe that we are very unique. That's the way it's going to keep
going. But as an industry, we need to talk less about how much
money we invest and much more about how much we get out of it so
that we can advance the technology that we have. You can go through
the list for almost any modality: PET/CT combination, live 3D
ultrasound, and 16-slice CT, with more to come.
I think the real trend is going to be that the race will keep
going and we are all going to have to concentrate a little more on
the applications. Less and less is it just about this or that
modality in radiology; it's about the family of applications. It's
not just the technology. If you go to the extreme, we say, "Our
technology on its own is useless; technology depends on how you use
it." That is the spirit we are trying to build on. That is what we
need to steer more and more toward: what we do with the
I have one benefit as an industry outsider; I don't get as
excited over the number of slices on CT as do the people who have
been here 30 years. I always ask, "So what? Where do we need to go
with CT to have a dramatic impact on the early diagnosis of lung
cancer, where the death rate is still 80%? What do we need to do in
partnership with whom to make a real breakthrough in molecular
imaging that everyone is talking about?"
That is the other trend that I think is going have a great
impact: molecular imaging. We at Philips may talk less than others
about it, but we are doing more than many others in that area
today, not just 5 years from now. No longer is it going to be so
much about coming up with a new modality or a little more speed,
it's going to be a lot more of a true partnership. It's not an
automatic thing. It has to begin very early in the game. Listen
much more than you do. Then you have to start trusting outside
people. The same is true, I think, with software, partnering with
the number one source.
So when you begin looking for new technologies to develop, you are
looking more at the application than at the technology itself?
That is always the number one question: So what? What is it going
to do to the customer community, the workflow efficiency, or
information management efficiency, safety, or security? Or if you
take the clinical applications, for example, cardiology or any
other area, what does it do? That is the question I always ask our
customers. Where do we need to go to take CT or MRI? What will it
take to make the breakthrough in cardiac imaging? I think that is a
very healthy question for any of the players in this field.
Which new technologies do you think will have the greatest
influence on the day-to-day life of the clinical radiologist?
Let me turn your question a bit. When you talk to radiologists at a
typical modern American hospital, you find that an enormous amount
of their time is spent trying to locate information; up to 20%. So
that is a problem in the reality of life: we can't stop the
customers, they have to take care of patients every day, and there
is an existing infrastructure that they cannot throw away. But
there is not going to be a single solution just because we have a
technology. It's going to be different in different hospitals. If
you go to a government-run hospital in Rome, their challenges are
very different from here in the U.S. That is a big one; I see a big
But there it is back to my earlier statement: don't start with
technology, start with what it can do.
In molecular imaging diagnostics, for example, we cannot change
the world on our own. We and our imaging customers can't change the
world. But it's us, our customers, and some very key partners that
we already have in some applications. That's a different game.
What do you think will be highlighted at RSNA 2005?
It will be very much a "customer-in" tone, where at our booth or
anybody's booth, you will see the X-rays, the ultrasounds, etc. In
2005, the focus will be on applications, such as "Cardiology: this
is what our company can do for you," including one or two
modalities. It's going to try to say to the cardiology
interventionalist "these are the tools you need to help the
patient." That would be the overall approach.
I'm not going to tell you how many slices we are going to have
on our CT or what Tesla our MRI will have. We announced at RSNA
2002, however, plans to develop a 7.0-T whole-body MRI system with
the University of Nottingham in the U.K. What I hear from our
customers is "Help us to change the future." I think this 7-T work
with the researchers from the University of Nottingham is a sign of
Everybody keeps saying that they are the best, but I say "Don't
tell me. Show me what you have been doing in real clinical
applications today." Because I think the topic of "molecular
imaging diagnostics" tends to be like something far away--and in
some ways it is--but there are things we can do today to help
patients. That is the message I would like to bring to my own
organization and to the customers. The future starts today.