Innovation is integral to Philips Sleep and Respiratory Care

Frank says consumers today are quicker to form an opinion, and often success or failure is based on a star rating as opposed to the effectiveness of your therapy.

“It’s the entire experience that matters to that consumer, and they are more than willing to give you feedback, particularly those who are highly motivated to find a better solution to their needs,” he says.

Philips also has stepped up its activities in software and data science worldwide — half of the company’s R&D professionals focus on this field, and Philips is among the world’s top three companies for artificial intelligence-related patent applications in health care.

Sleep and Respiratory Care is taking advantage of this expertise. With more than 6.4 million sleep and respiratory devices, the company has built a cloud-based infrastructure that connects back to insurance companies and physicians to help people stay compliant with their therapies. Philips would like to do this for other diseases in the future, as well, Frank says.

Bring everyone along

Creating digital networks and consumer-focused products requires a different level of expertise and know-how that has to be added to the employee base.

“It takes a lot of work, particularly when you’re healthy and growing,” Frank says. “You need to continue to support your core business and growth, while in parallel make the transformation to these new areas. And to do that in the company is easy to say, not always easy to do. They often require different processes, mindsets and, to some extent, a cultural shift.”

Frank spends a lot of time ensuring the people on his teams understand the direction the company is heading.

“You have to bring your people along. They have to share the same passion about the direction that you’re heading,” he says. “I can tell you that has been one key advantage that this business has had over the years. We have tremendous people who are highly passionate about the work they do. So, you need to paint for them the opportunity that’s in front of us, with the understanding that our success today is based on the history, but our success tomorrow requires a shift.”

Frank has found that people want to do important things, and he doesn’t like breaking up employees so that only part of the team is working on transforming the business.

“When you start to separate teams, you run the risk of alienating people who really want to be engaged,” Frank says. “We try very hard not to do that. In our early work, our pilot work, we may have a dedicated team who can work with agility and move fast, but once we know we want to go in this direction, we bring in the broader team to optimize the opportunity for success.”

While the customer always comes first — the company has customer and patient stories posted in the hallways, and each large team meeting starts with a testimonial — it’s even more true as you work through a transformation, he says. You cannot shape your vision without keeping that in mind at all times. Otherwise, you may veer from the path of what the consumer actually wants.

In a dynamic and shifting marketplace, you have to grind your way to success.

“I don’t know that there are many quick home runs,” Frank says. “So, what we find is that moving fast to iterate quickly to test, learn and adapt is the best way to evolve your way forward.”



  • Stay close to your customer to spark innovation.
  • R&D is more than an idea; it’s a deliberate process.
  • Transformation and engagement go hand in hand.


The file:

Name: John Frank
Title: Business leader of Sleep and Respiratory Care
Company: Philips

Born: Washington, Pennsylvania
Education: Bachelor’s degree in clinical science, with a specialty in respiratory care from Wheeling Jesuit University; MBA from the University of Pittsburgh

What was your first job, and what did you learn from it? My first real job, I was an emergency medical technician. I worked many long hours in the back of an ambulance. I learned in a very rapid way about the first entry point of health care and crisis-oriented experiences. It’s probably where I first started to build my passion for helping people.

What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received? Stick to your core — do well what you do well — and try not to deviate.

How are you involved with the community? I’m on the Pittsburgh Technology Council Board. Members of our team here also are big contributors to the American Heart Association and March of Dimes.

Where might someone find you on the weekend? When I’m not working and traveling, I hope you’d find me with family. In this type of business, when you work long hours, the weekend is a time to step back, reflect and ensure you have a good balance. So, I’d be spending time with family, often that’s golfing and other activities — usually not at home.

Is there anything that people might find surprising about you? In my earlier career, before I made the choice to go to health care, I was a firefighter.