Smart cities and communities are often discussed in terms of data, technology and connections. However, that is only part of the equation, as people need to be the focus of any ‘smart city’ initiative if it’s going to be successful. Focusing on people doesn’t mean they just get access to better government services, more responsive businesses and better communications. Bringing the human element to smart cities includes facilitating a healthier population, whether offering more green spaces, better access to healthy food or improved medical and wellness services.
According to the US Center for Disease Control (CDC), population health is:
“...an interdisciplinary, customisable approach that allows [government] health departments to connect practice to policy for change to happen locally. This approach utilises non-traditional partnerships among different sectors of the community – public health, industry, academia, healthcare, local government entities, etc. – to achieve positive health outcomes. Population health brings significant health concerns into focus and addresses ways that resources can be allocated to overcome the problems that drive poor health conditions in the population.”
With that context, it’s clear that population health is another facet of smart cities and communities. In my role at Microsoft, where I support healthcare start-ups globally, I work with those that are on the front lines using technology to improve population health.
Patient engagement and meaningful communications are key to effective population health. For example, healthcare technology provider Octopus.Health provides a comprehensive artificial intelligence-based platform for patient engagement and management, enabling healthcare providers to maximise adherence and clinical outcomes while reducing healthcare provider workload. It analyses thousands of patient parameters and personalises treatment and prevention plans, and by using advanced machine learning (ML) algorithms, the Octopus.Health solution is able to identify changes in patient behaviours and trends, and then automatically adjust modes of engagement to improve patient outcomes.
Octopus.Health isn’t the only organisation that has realised the value of communication is delivering better healthcare services. Well-Beat believes that productive communication is often a precursor to successful patient engagement. Well-Beat offers a modular, dynamic, patient engagement software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution that creates tailored interactions to empower healthcare professionals and their patients, providing enhanced care, relationship and treatment outcomes. Using ML models and behavioural science insights, Well-Beat increases healthcare communication accuracy and responsiveness at every touch point throughout the treatment cycle, using all available channels including voice, text, and chat.
Effective communication often depends on understanding the unique experiences of groups of people and individuals within those groups. Warrior Centric Health (WCH) provides commercial healthcare institutions with the tools to provide US veterans with better and more equitable care. The start-up ensures that providers understand the unique experiences and health histories of military veterans and can more effectively deliver care to former and current service members and their families. While many seek care through the established US Veteran’s Administration and Department of Defense healthcare systems, a vast majority of the Warrior Community use traditional, commercial providers. This is where WCH comes in. Through learning management systems, analytics and other technologies, WCH improves the responsiveness of health systems to those that have served the US.
With the rise of innovative technology and governments increasingly looking to ensure the success of their smart city projects, healthcare is increasingly extending beyond the traditional care locations to the home. InteliCare aims to solve the personal, social, economic and geographic challenges faced by the elderly and people with disabilities. The organisation’s goal is to provide a technology solution that supports aging in place, allowing elderly people to continue to live independently in their own home, retaining their dignity, choices and lifestyle.
InteliCare is designed to be a low-cost subscription service application for care providers and families. It uses ambient devices, wearables and other non-intrusive sensors to detect a range of in-home activity and therefore any unusual occurrences. By understanding whether there may be a problem in real time, out-of-home caregivers can be alerted immediately. Designed from the ground up with a focus on security, reliability and flexibility, InteliCare is driven to evolve with the changing needs of the elderly and their families.
Despite the aforementioned benefits at-home healthcare doesn’t have to be a complete patient monitoring system. For example, medical technology company, Rapid Response Revival (RRR) is dedicated to saving lives from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). It has recently secured CE Certification for CellAED, its personal, smart, affordable automated external defibrillator (AED).
Representing a major step-change in AED usability, accessibility and cost, CellAED is designed to reduce the time gap for effective response to SCA. Globally, less than one per cent of patients survive because they do not receive CPR and defibrillation within minutes of their cardiac arrest. CellAED also uses internet of medical things-enabled cloud services for remote device monitoring, security and data accessibility to speed emergency response. As a result, the solution is the first cellular-connected AED that can be maintained remotely to ensure the device is always ready and reduce the time it takes for the patient to receive effective treatment from a bystander, paramedic, or clinician.
Another organisation that is tackling population cardiac health is SRSHeart, which is dedicated to changing how to best test and treat the biggest killer of women – heart disease. By challenging the status quo of misdiagnoses and ineffective treatments, SRSHeart uses technology, testing and patient empowerment to create more effective treatments for women with heart disease.
The team at SRSHeart is committed to saving women’s lives, everywhere and anywhere, regardless of background, by providing access to care. Their approach is to ensure that their specially designed programmes and tools can be implemented seamlessly wherever women are treated. Its own programme combines medical preventative strategies using innovative technology to ensure a systematic, standardised level of care in every location. Additionally, its approach offers healthcare systems a prevention plan for thousands of women, with the potential to save millions of dollars for health care providers and payers.
With a rising number of SaaS-based healthcare organisations entering the market it is easier and more scalable to weave that into the fabric and dashboard of the smart city platform. Therefore, if we are to realise the vision of smart cities and communities, we need work with innovators and other leaders to improve the care and well-being of residents in those communities.
Sally Frank is the worldwide lead for health and life sciences at Microsoft for Startups
This article was originally published in the Autumn 2021 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.
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