Joburg: Using Technology for Health
Initiative such as Health TV in clinics and using SMS and email to track patients with chronic diseases and HIV/Aids mean that the City’s health department is already serious about turning Joburg into a smarter and healthier city by 2040.
“There is a need for us to use innovative ways to solve health problems, so we must constantly keep abreast of technological innovations,” said Nonceba Molwele, the member of the mayoral committee for health and social services, at the third session of the GDS2040 Smart Cities Week.
The broad use of health information technology (HIT) would contribute massively to a healthier Joburg in the future, said Molwele, because it would decrease costs, as well as the amount of paperwork that needed to be filled out.Johannesburg had always been a pioneer in technological innovation, she added. It was necessary to maintain this position by keeping up with and implementing technological advancements. “The role of IT in health cannot be overemphasised, and the wonder of technology will revolutionise the way we render health services,” she said.
Debra Sloane, from the computer networking company Cisco, gave some examples of ways in which technology could improve the provision of health services to residents. These included electronic health record updating and transferring, disease surveillance for containment and self-deployment, telehealth digital image transfer and remote video consultation.
These methods make use of security video, voice and data in order to treat patients.
Telehealth, for instance, would deliver better health care and improved patient satisfaction by ensuring that no citizen was turned away. Under-served communities would have expanded access to health care, the reach of scarce doctors and specialists would be broadened, and there would be an interactive remote patient/doctor experience by combining video, audio, data and medical devices in real-time, she added.
The Ontario Telemedicine Network in Canada, a province-wide network that connects small towns with specialist doctors in Toronto, is an example of a successful telehealth initiative.Ensuring that telehealth and other methods are effective includes collaboration and communication between health care practitioners. “It is important, particularly in health care, to share knowledge,” she said.
Zakes Mnisi from Bwired added: “Broadband benefits individuals, enterprises and governments and can connect emergency rooms in rural areas with specialist doctors … It can provide health care to all, everywhere, if you put it in clinics.”
Debra Sloane from Cisco relates how technology can improve provision of health services. Patients would be able to access all of their records online, and it would also mean that the elderly and disabled would be able to receive health care.
Interoperability between City departments and agencies would also streamline health care, said the technical director for Ericsson, Butiki Shabangu. Ericsson is partnered with Bwired on the Joburg broadband project.
Co-ordinated communication through interoperability will ensure a much shorter response time during emergencies by providing a fully integrated command centre with software-based video that is incorporated with GIS (geographic information systems).
This means that resources can be easily supervised and controlled. “Everything being centralised and integrated into one platform creates efficiency,” he said. It will also give operators the ability to work from anywhere.
For more information on the events taking place during the Smart Cities Week, visit the GDS2040 Facebook page, or follow @GDS2040 on Twitter. The GDS also has a website.