By Bart H. Meijer

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Dutch health technology company Philips expects sales at its digital care business to grow this year as patients see the benefits of sharing more medical data with doctors, Chief Executive Frans van Houten told Reuters.

Philips’ connected care division offers platforms to remotely monitor patients and for doctors to share patient data.

“We expect to see a positive trend in connected care this year, with sales growth picking up,” Van Houten said in an interview.

Its sales have lagged those of the company’s bigger divisions, which sell large medical equipment and personal care devices, stagnating in 2018 and falling 1% in the first quarter of 2019.

But Philips, which has spun off its lighting and consumer electronics divisions and now focuses purely on healthcare, expects rising life expectancy and associated chronic diseases to lead to growing demand for devices that allow patients to stay at home, while being monitored.

That view was supported by an international study, published this week, which showed patients with access to their digital health records are more satisfied with the care they receive and are very willing to share that data with doctors.

The study, which involved 15,000 patients and 3,100 doctors across 15 countries and was commissioned by Philips, also showed that two thirds of people who don’t have access to their own records want doctors and other health professionals to have access to their data.

Some 70% of the doctors interviewed with access to digital records said it improved their work.

“Data is the new gold”, Van Houten said. “We are absolutely convinced that sharing more data leads to better diagnosis, better treatment and better outcomes, improving the productivity of doctors.”

Increasing use of digital records could help Philips, as it sells software tools for doctors to gather data from records and devices that allow patients to collect health data, such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels, at home and immediately share them with doctors.

“People want their data to be used”, Van Houten said. “Although the general perception seems to be of an aversion towards data sharing, we actually see the opposite when it comes to health care.”

(Reporting by Bart Meijer. Editing by Jane Merriman and Mark Potter)