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CityZen: Connecting cities to citizens for health and wellbeing

by Dr Peter Sahota, CityZen project manager 

Cities are under increasing pressure to meet rising demand to provide high-quality services for their citizens, and to do so in the most cost-efficient way possible. Delivering health and well-being services for older citizens is a particular challenge. 

The Newton funded CityZen project is engaging directly with older citizens and healthcare professionals in São Paulo to develop a novel, citizen-centric digital platform that matches the needs of older people with responsive products and services provided by the city, whilst protecting user data privacy and security.

"Healthcare provision is a global challenge and by building new links between Brazil and the UK, we can foster innovation and have impact for the delivery of healthcare across Brazil. Our partners in Brazil have provided technical capabilities, cultural insight and a spirit of friendship."

UK Project lead, Dr Michael Wilkinson 

As a first stage of the CityZen project, and in order to understand the real needs of these different stakeholders the Catapult team, led by Dr Saravjit Rihal, interviewed 20 older people, 13 caregivers, five city professionals and eight healthcare professionals, faciliated by Einstein Hospital in São Paulo and by Hospital Ouro Verde and UNICAMP Hospital in Campinas City. They also toured medical and social welfare facilities such as UBS and CRAS.

 Image © Dr Peter Sahota 

After analysing the results of this exercise, it was agreed what features could be met through a technical solution and technical developments were made building on the background Intellectual Property of the project partners. The main technology feature developed is a smartphone App functionality that makes life easier for chronic disease patients by helping them to comply with the care plan set by the doctor with less anxiety and friction. It does this through remote healthcare monitoring, timely and prompt guidance pre-validated by their doctor, and personalised local exercise and diet recommendations, all delivered via a smartphone app.

"As a partner in the CityZen project, CPQD is responsible for enabling the integration of its speech synthesis, speech recognition and voice biometrics assets, as well as the development of a Dialog Manager, which aims to provide the user with greater interaction through voice communication. In order for such interaction to take place in compliance with the Security and Privacy requirements dictated by the LGPD (Lei Geral de Proteção de Dados) in Brazil and the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) in Europe, the CPQD also applied the methodology developed for security risk mapping and access control modelling."

CPqD project manager, Adilson Batistel

A major project milestone has now been reached in the CityZen project with the completion of an MVP (minimum viable product) technical build ready for testing in a real-life setting with hospital doctors and outpatients. The testing will be supported by Albert Einstein Hospital as Industry Sponsor of the project.

The InCor heart hospital, also in São Paulo, is part of the public Hospital das Clínicas, the largest hospital in Latin America. Following an introduction at a British Consulate event, we will also be working with a team of eight doctors and nurses in the InCor Hypertension Department to validate the use of AVATR for patient engagement and treatment of hypertension patients.

"With AVATR app and AI technology, with CPqD voice recognition tool, we could engage more easily a general population into a better treatment care plan. InCor is designing a clinical pilot study to evaluate the use of AVATR for patient engagement and treatment care planning focused on hypertension patients groups, a segment of population at high risk of strokes and heart diseases. Patient engagement in medication adherence and follow-ups can reduce patients visits to ER and health problems that are avoidable."

Guilherme Rabello, study lead at InCor

As a Newton Fund project, an important aim is to reduce social disparities faced by older and vulnerable people, removing barriers to accessing healthcare services by providing support wherever and whenever it is needed. This can reduce healthcare costs, improve clinical outcomes and support the healthcare policy goals of moving healthcare goals out of hospitals and into neighbourhoods and local communities.

 Image © Dr Peter Sahota 

Following the end of the project, we intend to increase the numbers and types of patients we are reaching through hospitals such as InCor. We will establish a local presence at the Distrito HealthTech Accelerator in São Paulo. As a result, we will commercialise our technology by engaging with healthcare professionals, initially in the state of São Paulo.

The Newton Fund has acted as a catalyst for this project, enabling technical development and engagement with new partners such as Einstein Hospital and InCor. In order to accelerate our impact, we will be seeking future funding opportunities to reach out to other hospitals and stakeholders across the whole Brazil healthcare ecosystem.


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