Using data to deliver more targeted health and social care
With demand for health and social care in cities rising, taking a data-driven approach can help to reduce pressure on services while targeting precious resources more effectively.
Increasing demand for health and social care is the result of both an ageing population and high-density populations and infrastructures meaning that stress levels are on the rise, causing all kinds of issues.
Encouraging health and wellbeing
While cities can’t enforce healthy lifestyles, they can promote them by empowering citizens and providing them with positive opportunities. From a design perspective, more open (preferably green) space is needed to help provide clean air and time to relax.
The City of Copenhagen is a very good example of this. Within 15 minutes, every resident can reach a park or waterfront on foot or by bicycle. The City of Houston, also, has a very well-designed riverside park where cycling, running and other types of sports are welcomed.
In some cities, people are attracted into parks through partnerships with private-sector sponsors providing technology to promote and enable sports and exercise. These technologies generate and capture data (via wearable devices, for example) for use by individual citizens as part of their own health and wellbeing regimes and also by sponsors and city services to more accurately plan and target resources.
Personalizing health and social care
Ageing also has an impact. As we grow older, we want to live independently for as long as possible, creating an increasing demand for home and health support. This is in the interests of city services for whom the costs of elderly and retirement homes are high.
Home support services are provided by commercial companies, sometimes contracted by the city and sometimes directly by residents. Currently, the services delivered tend to be shaped by the availability and schedule of the provider. Instead, access to biometric data can help personalize services much more effectively for individual citizens.
Wearable technologies can capture such data, with highly secure connected bracelets providing real-time data on vital functions to a care provider’s dashboard. And there are other uses for such data. It can, for example, help city planners to identify traffic situations that are particularly challenging for elderly or disabled people by analyzing heartbeat and blood pressure captured. A wearable device could even trigger the lights at a pedestrian crossing to allow the wearer more time to cross the street.
Delivering targeted and timely social care in a city means breaking down silos of data held in different systems. Combining data from social services with police records and education service systems can trigger alerts about vulnerable or potentially vulnerable individuals and families who need help. Of course, privacy needs to be taken very seriously. The results of the analysis must be presented in a way that protects data and privacy, with training for city workers who receive the alerts.
In a ground-breaking collaboration in South Wales, five public service organizations are working closely together to identify people who may be vulnerable and who may benefit from multi-agency support. Local councils, a health board and the police all share information through innovative data-matching, predictive analytics and consultative dialogue to identify individuals and groups most at risk who can then receive earlier, better-targeted help and interventions. In some cases, this can even prevent vulnerability happening in the first place.
This is just one example of what becomes possible when agencies start to collaborate. Across the range of local authority health and social care, it is critical that cities provide the digital framework for an ecosystem of services and tools that empower citizens and enable agencies to work together to deliver better targeted, more integrated care.
You can read more about our vision for the Data-Driven City and how to harness data for the benefit of everyone in cities in our new opinion paper, MyCity: a Data-Driven City.