The Smart City Infrastructure Project of HDC and the Healthcare of Tomorrow

Healthy citizens are the cornerstones of healthy societies. Undoubtedly, healthcare is the least one of the digitised industries in the Maldives. The healthcare system consists of distinctive parties like: patients, primary care physicians, pharmacists, specialists, and other experts. It also involves different stages like health condition monitoring, disease diagnosis, medical treatment and rehabilitation. 

The Covid19 pandemic has opened our eyes to the vitality of a streamlined healthcare system in the Maldives. Though it took scrutiny, costly investments and cautious implementation, the healthcare system was able to provide essential services all the while safeguarding the public against the coronavirus.

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There is no doubt that our community will be well-prepared for similar adversities in the future. However, the preparedness also depends a lot on the right resources, i.e., a technological infrastructure. A research conducted by the UN suggests that 68% of the world population are projected to live in urban cities by the year 2050. The research further explains that the gradual shift in residence of the human population from rural to urban areas, combined with the overall growth of world’s population could add another 2.5 billion people to urban areas by the year 2050. Close to a staggering 90% of this increase is most likely to take place in Asia and Africa.

Circling back to our community, the population in the Greater Male’ area is also increasing with each year that goes by. The city needs to adapt if it wishes to nurture a healthier, happier, and safer population. Urban public health needs to evolve in order to cater for denser populations and the potential hazards that come with population density. As population increases, the community becomes more exposed to pollution, toxic air, and illnesses. The coronavirus pandemic, unfortunately proved that diseases spread quicker and are deadlier in urban environments.

Though rural public health and urban public health face similar challenges, and share similarities, the unique conditions of city living create disparate solutions to these problems. The two areas intersect but also differ. For instance, rural communities are well-suited to controlling the spread of a virus. Rural areas have more space – making social distancing much easier when compared to urban areas. The public infrastructure is more spread out and provides accessibility to more green spaces. This does not mean that urban areas don’t come with advantages. When examined, urban areas actually have many advantages over their counterparts. The Greater Male area provides access to better employment, different cultures, and access to better resources. Alas, as population continues to rise in urban areas, the aforementioned advantages will be outweighed by several disadvantages.

As we often say, “modern problems require modern solutions,” and things don’t get any more 21st Century than the implementation of the right technology to deal with the right problem. The integration of technology can offer concrete solutions to proactively address both immediate and long-term health emergencies, as well as strategies. The Smart City Infrastructure project of Housing Development Corporation (HDC), will carry out a critical function that could potentially change the dynamics of healthcare. The implications of a smart city infrastructure will accelerate implementation of contrivances to better-serve the needs of the public – including healthcare.

First and foremost, let us discuss the potential outcomes of smart, innovative solutions on the health and well-being of our community. As services become more accessible within a walking distance or across digital mediums, it lessens the need to travel via transport systems. Be it through public or privately-owned modes of transportation. If we examine why residents move within the Greater Male’ area, identify their needs and facilitate solutions online or within a walking distance, it will reduce carbon footprint – moving us closer to a pollution-free community. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), exposure to high levels of pollution causes a variety of adverse health effects, namely respiratory infections, heart diseases and lung cancer. A smart city infrastructure has the potential to spark the transference of the way we as a community fulfil our daily needs, thus, lowering street-occupancy via fuel-powered automobiles. Breathing clean, quality air will reduce potential health risks in the city.

With the ongoing growth of population, our healthcare system is experiencing inefficiency in the flow of patients, limited staffing, lengthy hospital stays and subpar communication methods are rampant. All over the world, technology is reshaping transportation, work culture, and there is great potential for technology in the healthcare sector. 

Let us peer at the results of using modern technology in healthcare. Specifically during the coronavirus pandemic: the most devastating global health crisis of the new millenium. South Korea used their Smart City Data Hub, a tool to analyse urban data to trace transmission paths by acquiring and confirming data about coronavirus cases and others who’ve come in contact with them. The single platform tool has simplified a previously arduous process and thus, in one week, the number of confirmed cases dropped from 900 to 90 per day without the imposition of lockdowns or self-isolation.

Name any other industry with a customer experience philosophy based on something called a “waiting room”. The quagmire of waiting an hour or two just to see your doctor for 5-10 minutes on average. In private healthcare, the situation is exacerbated by exorbitant prices. Fortunately, technological instruments can potentially save us from this ordeal. Say on those days where our children make inane excuses to avoid school. Instead of spending hours in the ‘waiting room’, we could use a smartphone attachment to read their vitals, and later onwards input the data into your doctor’s app. The nurses at the pediatrician’s office will review the stats and symptoms, send a follow-up text message and a doctor’s prescriptions well in under an hour. This is an amplified version of the digital patient experience our community experienced during the lockdown. Doctors provided consultation and prescriptions online. Pragmatically, this has proven to be a viable concept and integration of technology to bridge the gap between the patient and the doctor will only improve the experience.

The smart city infrastructure of Housing Development Corporation (HDC) has potential to instigate innovative patient-oriented, personalised experiences. Robust computing platforms and sophisticated algorithms targeted towards healthcare have proven to increase the accuracy of diagnosis and treatment. According to Target Ovarian Cancer, an ovarian cancer charity organization from the United Kingdom, the big data approach to treatment in ovarian cancer patients has already extended the lives of many. Analytics-driven prescription of beta blocker medication to ovarian cancer patients gave them up to four extra years of life. 

Can we bring the healthcare system to the patient? Yes it is reservedly possible. Services such as Dispatch Health, a personalised healthcare company from the United States are redefining healthcare delivery. They are a team of doctors, engineers and other experts that offer an integrated, convenient and high-touch care delivery solution that extends the capabilities of a patient’s care team. They offer definitive, quality care in the home while decreasing costs. The process begins with a simple booking made online via a mobile app. The team then determines whether it would be ideal to treat the patient at home or should they be taken to the hospital depending on the urgency and seriousness of the injury. If possible, they provide treatment all within the comfort of the patient’s home. They also handle the procedure of calling in the patient’s prescriptions and also updating the patient’s designated doctor as well as the billing process.

Innovation is followed by ingenuity and the smart city infrastructure project of HDC is deemed to spark the innovative solutions that will potentially transform the healthcare experiences in the Greater Male’ area.

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