Press releases

Technology and social networks empower smart health communities

SHCs' combination of new technologies, behavioral science and community support empower individuals and improve people's health

Published: 12 December 2019

After decades of relying primarily on medical care to improve health, new research from Deloitte explores promising examples that portend a shift towards community-based healthcare that will improve people's health, prevent disease and promote wellbeing.

The Deloitte Center for Health Solutions and Deloitte Center for Government Insights interviewed more than a dozen innovators using new approaches to engage people through communities—both virtual and geographic. The research found that harnessing the power of social networks and technology can enable smart health communities (SHCs) to empower individuals to manage their own health.

The new findings are revealed in Deloitte's report, Smart health communities and the future of health.

What is a smart health community?

SHCs are entities that operate largely outside traditional healthcare systems to encourage disease prevention within a community. Although the fundamentals of SHCs are not new, technological advances and new understanding of health behaviors are informing next-generation SHCs that are much more sophisticated, interconnected and influential.

These advanced SHCs typically have five key elements:

  • Empowering individuals to proactively manage their health and well-being
  • Fostering a sense of community and belonging
  • Using digital technology and behavioral science
  • Using data to improve health outcomes
  • Creating new and innovative ecosystems

"The Chinese government is taking forward the 'Healthy China 2030' blueprint. There has been a wide gap between healthcare provision in China's cities and rural areas, but advances in the SHC concept and technology are closing this gap, for example with digital interfaces that make disease management programs more accessible and convenient, particularly in rural and remote locations," says Deloitte China LSHC Industry Leader Jens Ewert. "In an area like precision medicine, which supports disease prevention, early disease detection and treatment, Chinese healthcare companies have an opportunity to lead the world because of the huge amount of data available to them."

Forces driving adoption

SHCs are taking hold because most health outcomes are caused by factors outside healthcare systems, including socioeconomic status, eating and exercise habits, and where people live. Globally, five of the 10 leading causes of death are due to conditions related to unhealthy behavior. Community-driven networks can influence peoples’ eating habits, physical activity, obesity rates, anxiety levels and overall happiness.

Internet and mobile technologies have facilitated powerful virtual communities, including social media networks, enabling SHCs to become more personalized than ever, even as they have become much bigger. Data shared within an SHC can help detect and prevent diseases at an individual level as well as assist in understanding health trends in the wider population.

Stakeholders in new SHC ecosystems

SHCs are creating innovative ecosystems comprising public and private entities. For example, government agencies can create models that foster cost-effective SHCs through public health insurance programs. They can also establish data-sharing agreements that can help other players in the SHC ecosystem understand and analyze people's needs.

In private healthcare, meanwhile, health systems, care givers, life sciences companies, technology companies and retailers can participate in SHCs as part of their digital and consumer engagement strategies.

"The SHC concept offers a great opportunity to further strengthen China's already existing combination of public and private healthcare provision, which is helping to create more targeted care, better services and more efficient use of resources to the largest portion of the population at the most affordable cost," concludes Deloitte China Government & Public Services Leader Clare Ma. "China has high demand for healthcare technology, there is a strong system of government support for healthcare provision, and individuals are increasingly willing to pay more for better services, all of which provides strong foundations for development of the next-generation SHC ecosystem."

Click to read the Smart health communities and the future of health report.

Did you find this useful?