Healthcare in smart cities needs to move closer to where people live, work and play, and away from where it's currently provided in hospitals and doctor's offices, said Sumit Kumar Nagpal, SVP and global GM of health innovation at Comcast NBCUniversal. Traditional hierarchies in healthcare are shifting, and "the game is up" for those players, he said.
Smart cities will also empower a new healthcare industry where patients take control, according to Kristen Honey, Innovator in Residence with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She said the shift in "control" raises ethical questions about patient trust and privacy.
Four healthcare and technology experts landed on these narratives during a discussion of smart city healthcare solutions and the moral dilemmas that many of those solutions pose at a roundtable in Washington, DC, hosted by law firm Dentons.
Prediction will be a defining factor of smart city healthcare, Nagpal said. Thanks to wearables and ambient sensor technology, it's now possible to predict "when something bad will happen, before it happens."
But with those predictive capabilities comes moral quandaries. The panel posed the question: If a company's data can predict when an individual will have a heart attack, is that company morally obligated to warn the individual? What if that individual isn't a paying customer?
Every individual should have the right to their personal data, Raymond Sczudlo, senior counsel of Dentons' healthcare practice, said. But once an individual has that information, questions remain about what they should do with it.
As healthcare continues to enter an era empowered by the patient, Honey said big hospitals will take a back seat.
New technologies will also allow patients to be cared for and diagnosed in their homes, instead of hospitals, according to Sczudlo. He said tech companies will continue to zero in on the inefficiencies in today's healthcare system. (Think: Jeff Bezos' new Haven venture.)
The potential risks of 5G technology in smart cities was also addressed, though many questions remain about the impact of 5G technology on human health. Countries like Switzerland have delayed the roll out of 5G to monitor radiation. New Hampshire is following suit and creating a commission to study the health impacts.
Peter Raymond, bureau chief at The New Bureau, said that hospitals should ask themselves, "Do we really need [5G] or can we run the technology on lower bandwidth?" In other words, if it's not broke, don't fix it.
The adoption of 5G technology will probably mimic how most technology has been implemented historically, involving some risk, Honey said. "We'll probably move forward and some people will be negatively affected, others won't. We'll learn and evolve from there."
Sczudlo, however, believes there are many benefits to 5G technology that outweigh the potential health risks. 5G could enable EMTs to have instant access to a patient's entire medical history.
Despite the many complexities posed by 5G technology and the influx of patient data, a simple solution was posed for guiding the implementation of these technologies: enhancing consumer trust and joy.
"Design for joy," Nagpal said. "We can connect with people if we can connect with joy."