Connected 'smart' communities will be a key part of 21st century healthcare

Posted on: Monday, September 30, 2019 By: KorchekStaff

During National Health IT Week, three experts put the focus on how digital technologies and smart care approaches are already transforming population health and helping address social determinants.

As part of its National Health IT Week program, HIMSS presented a webinar this week exploring the advent of what it calls the "Smart Communities-Cities Movement."

Healthcare suddenly finds itself amid a paradigm shift, where a profusion of real-time clinical and social health data, broadband connectivity, personal devices, sensors, apps, digital therapeutics and more are transforming delivery away from acute care settings and into the larger community.

It's a fundamental change that's only going to be more pronounced in the years ahead as the demands of consumerism and value-based care, combined with ongoing advances in always-on technology, maintain the momentum toward new models of care.

"How healthcare is organized will be drastically different because of technology," said Dr. Chris Gibbons, founder and CEO of The Greystone Group, during the HIMSS session – which is now on-demand and explores how providers and federal, state and local policymakers are changing the way they think about the internet of things and connected health tools as they focus on population health management.

The prevalence (if not ubiquity) of broadband, combined with fast-advancing robotics, ingestible technologies and wearable sensors as thin and lightweight as temporary tattoos – to name just a few recent innovations – are set to transform "medical services, public health, social services. wellness" and more, said Gibbons — to say nothing of completely reshaping the patient experience.

Smart technology – "embedded chips that can detect automatically and react appropriately without human interaction," or digital health tools that "have the processing power embedded right in them" – are already making their presence felt.

And as these AI-enabled IoT networks proliferate across communities and entire cities, the result will be "real-time delivery of automated health services, anywhere the person is located in the community," said Gibbons.

In this near future, "there is no place these people are not connected," he explained. "They do not need to be in a hospital. You can really envision the delivery of automated services – public health services, social services – anywhere to the person in the community.

"Digital technologies and smart care approaches will transform healthcare organizations far beyond the practice of medicine, yet they will also provide significant opportunities to improve population health," he added.

And not a moment too soon, said Dr. Asif Dhar, chief health informatics officer at Deloitte.

The main drivers of cost in the U.S. – and they are astronomical costs – are for chronic disease and addiction: health issues that exist outside of the hospital setting and thus need to be tackled in the community at large.