Smart health communities and the future of health

Five core components industry and government stakeholders can consider in the shift to health and well-being

After decades of focusing largely on the health care system as a means to improve health, we now understand that factors outside of it have a far greater impact on health outcomes. In this article, we explore the five key elements of smart health communities (SHCs) and how they strive to improve these outcomes.

Key findings

A smart health community (SHC) means an entity that operates largely outside of the traditional health care system and encourages disease prevention and overall well-being in a geographic or virtual community setting. It contains the following five key features:

Actions that take SHCs to the next level

  • SHCs must embed strategies for helping the poor, unmotivated, and unhealthy to adopt healthy behaviors using the science of healthy behavior change and interventions that address the social determinants of health
  • SHC leaders must identify seed funding to get started, and develop a sustainable business model that can be scaled
  • SHCs might be able to encourage users to share their data if they are completely transparent about how information will be collected, stored, secured, shared, used, and when/if it will be deleted. When faced with data restrictions, they can identify proxy data sets that can help them get the information they need

How today’s stakeholders get involved with SHCs

- Governments:

  • Create pilots and payment models through public health insurance programs
  • Build SHCs and recruit other public and private agencies to expand their reach
  • Fund or evaluate SHCs alongside foundations and academic institutions
  • Establish data-sharing agreements and then collect, analyze, and share data on local population needs with other players in the SHC ecosystem to collaborate on innovative solutions
  • Develop and/or support SHCs’ technological infrastructure and governance, including standardization and security of data

- Providers, payers, life sciences companies, and nontraditional health care players

  • Consumer engagement strategies: establish consumer loyalty, improve behaviors such as medication adherence, thrive in value-based care arrangements, increase access, and reduce costs
  • Digital strategies: data collection, analytics, and ongoing monitoring and evaluation of SHCs

As SHCs mature and proliferate, their governance and funding approaches could become more sophisticated, affording them the management and resources necessary to empower communities to invest in their own health and wellbeing—not just to stave off illness, but to reach their full physical and mental potential.

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