Using data to deliver more targeted health and social care

Albert Seubers

Atos Director, Global Strategy Smart X

With demand rising for health and social care in cities, taking a data-driven approach can help reduce pressure on services while targeting precious resources more effectively. Increasing demand for health and social care is the result of both an aging population as well as high-density populations and infrastructures — meaning that stress levels are on the rise, causing many kinds of issues.

Encouraging health and wellbeing

While cities cannot enforce healthy lifestyles, they can promote them by empowering citizens and providing them with positive opportunities. From a design perspective, more open space (preferably green) 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 on foot or by bicycle, every resident can reach a park or waterfront. 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, as well as by sponsors and city services to more accurately plan and target resources.

Personalizing health and social care

Aging also has an impact. As we grow older, we want to live independently for as long as possible, which creates increased 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 are usually dictated by the availability and schedule of the provider. In contrast, access to biometric data can help personalize services for individual citizens much more effectively.

Wearable technologies can capture such data, with highly secure connected bracelets that provide real-time data on vital functions to a care provider’s dashboard. There are other uses for such data — for example, analyzing captured heartbeat and blood pressure data to help city planners identify traffic situations that are particularly challenging for elderly or disabled people. A wearable device could even trigger the lights at a pedestrian crossing to allow the wearer more time to cross the street.

Multi-agency approaches

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 must 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.


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