Telecoms operators have a role to play in facilitating communication between the various players in the medical field.

Orange Healthcare: “Protecting patient data is simply an extension of our normal work”

Interview with Benjamin Sarda, Marketing Director at Orange Healthcare France, which provides communication solutions for healthcare systems and infrastructure.

How much is Orange Healthcare earning from the health-related business?

Orange generates total revenue of €50 billion a year. Two thirds of that comes from the telecommunications business and one third from our services to companies, i.e. purely BtoB activities. Orange Healthcare is one of Orange’s corporate divisions. It isn’t a business entity as such but it links up with all the Orange divisions. Our Healthcare activity is overwhelmingly BtoB. Some 95% of our turnover comes from developed countries and the rest from developing countries.

In eHealth there are three distinct markets. Firstly, when a process is already up and running, our role is to make a contribution on the technology side in order to enhance the efficiency of the process. Take for example medical imaging. This is already a mature field and hospitals are pretty well equipped. There we provide Cloud Computing solutions. Initiatives of this sort account for two thirds of our turnover. The second market is remote monitoring of chronic illness. In the past, hospitals were set up to deal with acute conditions but during the 1950s an epidemiological shift occurred so that today the majority of medical conditions are of the chronic kind. So there’s now an imbalance between existing healthcare infrastructure and actual patient requirements. Consequently, we need to invent new processes for treating patients. We need to be able to care for chronic illness sufferers remotely. This area accounts for a quarter of our turnover. Our third business activity is the provision of solutions in the field of preventative medicine and personal well-being. Unlike the first two, this is not BtoB. We provide solutions directly to the general public. In Europe, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for Orange to sell healthcare solutions, but in Africa it’s different. The Orange brand is so powerful that the general public isn’t at all astonished to find a telecoms operator addressing health issues.


Is this a real opportunity for growth or just a market where you’re positioning yourselves in a marginal capacity?

Oh, it’s a real growth opportunity. Remote monitoring of chronic illness for example is currently seeing double digit growth. Orange has drawn up strategic plans targeting new areas for market conquest and growth and of course Health is part of that. What makes us believe in this? Because the organisation of healthcare is closely bound up with communication issues. Dozens of people will be taking care of a single patient, from the moment s/he enters the hospital to the time s/he leaves – social workers, the general practitioner, the specialist, and so on. So there’s the whole issue of managing the flow of information between the various data originators. We firmly believe that it’s the role of a telecoms operator to manage communications between people, whatever the underlying activity.


Do telecoms operators have a real role to play in the medical field?

As soon as people need to talk to each other, telecoms operators are the right players. In the Healthcare sector, the problem is that you have to co-ordinate between a wide variety of people and so there’s a large quantity of complex information to manage. In addition, there are major issues of confidentiality and data security in this field. Nevertheless, the basic tasks are exactly the same as those which are traditionally handled by an operator. Protecting patient data is simply an extension of our normal work. You know that the French legislators have placed specific regulations on the hosting of personal medical data. Well, Orange was the first telecoms operator to receive accreditation.

By Eliane HONG