These Smart City innovations also have great potential in improving health care services for metropolitan areas, including interaction between patients and caregivers and better access to medical information and resources.
This has been identified as a long-term need, as the world’s population living in urban areas is expected to increase up to 68% by 2050, according to the United Nations. But it also has become even more acutely vital in light of the current global outbreak of COVID-19, as hospitals and healthcare providers around the world are facing unprecedented challenges in responding to a new pandemic that emphasizes particular demands of security and aging populations. Smart cities technologies can offer concrete solutions to proactively address both immediate health emergencies and long-term strategies.
Here are examples around the world of how smart cities technologies can help improve healthcare:
The Asian nation wants to move forward into the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in’s special committee to develop a set of recommendations — an initiative focusing on how technologies can be promoted in various sectors, including healthcare.
- Busan and Sejong, South Korea’s showcase smart city projects, set to be operational by 2021, will both use Big Data, robotics and AI to improve the delivery of public services. The district Sejong 5-1 Life Zone will focus on health and mobility and function as a large-scale hospital. For instance, drones will deliver first-aid kits, while in Busan, robots will also be able to act as caretakers within a healthcare cluster.
- Some of these technologies are currently put to use to contain the country’s COVID-19 outbreak. The “Smart City Data Hub”, a tool to analyse urban data, was used by epidemiological investigators to trace transmission paths by obtaining and confirming data about coronavirus cases and people who they’ve come into contact with — a time-consuming process which was simplified by using this single platform tool. In one week, confirmed cases dropped from 900 to around 90 per day, without the implementation of lockdowns or self-isolation.
According to the American Hospital Association’s annual report, the United States has 6,000 hospitals across the country and 36.5 million admissions every year, challenging health organizations.
- Seat Pleasant, a community of about 5,000 in Maryland, has established a partnership with Amazon, Sprint, EagleForce and Freedmen’s Health, to launch a “nationwide disease surveillance and chronic disease management telehealth system.” This program will allow residents to connect with care providers and to monitor them, especially high-risk seniors.
- New York is launching the Accessible Mental Health Challenge, to improve access to mental health services for youth in vulnerable communities. The city wants to connect local tech companies with government agencies and Latinx youth from 13 to 18 years old. The latter could use technology to better understand mental health and mental illness or to learn how to seek help when needed, with tools that address the language barriers and cultural differences.
Singapore’s healthcare system is facing various challenges such as an increasing prevalence of chronic disease and an aging population. The Smart Nation initiative, which was launched in 2014, aims at responding to these challenges, with assistive technology and robotics to help seniors or people with disabilities, or with the creation of HealthHub, a digital healthcare portal.
- Singapore was one of the first countries hit by COVID-19, but its rapid response and use of technology has earned praise from the World Health Organization and experts. The city-state created an app in March 2020 called TraceTogether, in order to identify those who had close contact with infected persons. Singapore also created a national Whatsapp channel as well as chatbots to answer Covid-19 related queries.
- In April 2020, Singapore will launch the season 5 of its National Steps Challenge — a nationwide physical activity program to encourage its residents to take responsibility for their health. The participants receive a steps tracker and can connect to an app to track their steps and diet.