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First U.S. Smart Medical District Upgrades IT Infrastructure

The Illinois Medical District and IGNITE CITIES have launched the first U.S. smart medical district, which is designed to improve patient care through upgrading IT infrastructure and transportation.

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Source: Getty Images

By Fred Donovan

- The Illinois Medical District and IGNITE CITIES, a tech consulting firm specializing in smart cities, have launched the first smart medical district in the United States designed to improve patient care through upgrading IT infrastructure and transportation.

The smart medical district is located in Chicago’s West Side, where more than 40 healthcare organizations, including four world-class hospitals, two universities, and research labs, are located.

The Illinois Medical District, a 560-acre special use zoning district focused on healthcare service and innovation, will use private and public partnerships and advanced technology deployments to provide digital services across the district.

The partnership will expand the current telecommunications infrastructure in the district, including working with telecom companies to lay more fiber optic cable, deploy 5G cellular infrastructure, and expanded public Wi-Fi.

“We are implementing infrastructure and amenities that help the district and the people who are here be more connected and introducing technologies that will enable them to be more connected,” IMD CEO and Executive Director Suzet McKinney.

“Some of those technologies include an ultra-high-speed fiber optic network so that our institutions and visitors to the district each day have the connectivity they need to conduct their business…and the implementation of 5G cellular technology as well as free public Wi-Fi,” McKinney told HITInfrastructure.com.

The IMD and IGNITE CITIES intend to develop a connected and intelligent solution to improve transportation, connectivity, and safety throughout the smart medical district. They will work closely with the healthcare organizations in upgrading and expanding the IT infrastructure. 

“We are working to get our stakeholders to understand what we are endeavoring to do, how that work with benefit their business as well as their patients, and gaining their buy-in as we move forward,” McKinney said.

“We found service disconnections that can be burdensome to patients when they are coming to receive their medical care – everything from transportation, to parking, and to amenities issues,” she said. “Creating a smart medical district will ease some of those burdens on patients, as well as visitors, students and employees,” she added.

IGNITE CITIES Managing Director Reyahd Kazmi commented: “We believe that by connecting people, devices and services, we will start to resolve district-wide issues and deliver enhanced citizen engagement, transformed infrastructure and responsive digital services. As a national hub for medicine and innovation, the IMD is the perfect place for Chicago's first Smart District.” 

The IMD is located less than two miles west of Chicago’s downtown loop and is the largest urban medical district in the country, according to the district's master plan.

Last year, IMD began the retail portion of the IMD Gateway development, a 10-acre mixed-use development that provides a range of amenities, offices, labs, a hotel, and residential space. It is expected to be completed in the spring of 2019.

Also last year, Cook County renovated the Cook County Health and Hospitals System’s central campus and surrounding area located in the IMD. A new 9-story, 282,000-square-foot building is being constructed for patients at the corner of Polk Street and Damen Avenue in Chicago to replace the Fantus Clinic, which was demolished early last year.

A new surface parking lot is being constructed on the Fantus Clinic site to serve patients and visitors to the Stroger Hospital Emergency and Trauma departments. Fantus Clinic, which served patients for nearly 60 years, was named after the Cook County Hospital physician credited with establishing the first blood bank in the United States in 1937.

The IMD is a also hub for education in the field of medicine. Rush University Medical College and the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago are located within the IMD, and Malcolm X School of Health Sciences is nearby. These programs attract medical experts and important research projects to the district.

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