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Smart cities could transform public healthcare

27th May 2016

| #smart health#iot#technology

One of the central aims of smart cities is to improve quality of life for city residents, and as health has a major impact on a person’s quality of life, healthcare provision in smart cities must be carefully considered.

The increase in technology and data that will come with smart cities represents a huge opportunity for governments to change the way that healthcare is delivered. We are already seeing innovation in the health sector, from wearable technology (such as the Fitbit) to telehealth technology, which allows patients to consult with their GP via a video conference call. There’s a growing interest in health technology, with UK startups like BigHealth, TrialReach and HealthUnlocked researching and developing in this area.

The enhanced connectivity that will come with smart cities has the potential to make sure that healthcare services are truly meeting the needs of citizens. Connectivity is a key component of smart cities, and citizens should be able to easily communicate with their authorities. It should be simple, then, for these authorities to gather information from citizens about the difficulties they experience in relation to health and wellbeing services in their cities. They can use this information to inform city planning, enabling citizens to shape healthcare services and ensuring that the wellbeing of citizens is at the forefront of the smart city.

Sharing any data collected on health could also stimulate innovation and improve collaboration in healthcare services. Making health-related data open and accessible to all – while also respecting patient confidentiality – and sharing medical learnings could greatly benefit citizens on a global level. Moves are already being made towards increased collaboration in medicine; Boston Children’s Hospital have worked with IBM to create OpenPediatrics, a cloud-based education app that allows healthcare workers to share medical knowledge globally. Making health data available to the public would also enable businesses and independent parties to identify common health needs and develop original solutions to these needs.

Data-sharing may also improve citizens experiences of public healthcare services. Making data accessible would allow patient information to be shared between different healthcare sectors, such as hospitals and social care, which traditionally work in siloes. This would give healthcare workers a well-rounded view of each individual patient, and should provide patients with a more joined-up experience. Open data would also allow citizens to have better access to information about health and wellbeing, and make more informed decisions about their own care as a result. For example, sensors in existing city infrastructure (such as lampposts) could monitor dust, pollen, and pollution levels; citizens could consult this data and make health decisions accordingly.

As cities become smarter and smart technology provides authorities with greater insight into the lives of citizens, the provision of healthcare is set to change. By engaging with citizens and making health data accessible, smart city leaders could create a public healthcare system that truly meets the needs of their residents.

- John Fox, MD, Lucy Zodion. 

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