How 5G is transforming healthcare industry?

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Although 5G has been commercially deployed for less than an year ago, it has already demonstrated the potential to transform multiple industry verticals, including healthcare. Considering, where we are with the covid19 global pandemic, this is one vertical that requires urgent digital transformation. 

Let’s start with where we are in the journey of the healthcare industry transformation, leveraging 5G technology.

Sample use cases of how 5G is being leveraged for transforming healthcare industry:

Rush University is working with AT&T to bring the latest mobile communications technology to clinical care, based on 5G to improve communications, data processing needs and the patient experience

Ooredoo is working with Ericsson leveraging 5G technology in ambulances to allow doctors to treat patients remotely by controlling a special haptic glove worn by the paramedic on the scene

Emory Healthcare is using Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband to enhance augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) applications for medical training, telemedicine, remote monitoring, in addition to diagnostic and imaging systems from ambulances to ER

China Telecom, ZTE and West China hospital are facilitating remote diagnosis of deadly coronavirus via 5G

China operators along with Huawei are building 5G demo sites for remote consultation, outpatient & image diagnosis.

Vitas Healthcare and AT&T launched a study that combines 5G with virtual reality & augmented reality (VR/AR) to test if it can help reduce chronic pain and anxiety for certain hospice patients

British Telecom and NHS are leveraging 5G for demonstrating Connected ambulances to show how connectivity can enhance healthcare. Sample scenarios include:

Scenario-1 – showed a patient from a high-speed collision. The paramedic, wearing a haptic glove, requested a review from the emergency consultant as the ultrasound was conducted.

Scenario-2 – showed AR /VR based real-time video and photography being sent to the emergency consultant in the hospital for further decisions to be made on whether a patient needs to be brought to the Accident and Emergency Department unit or not.

Vodafone, Government of Catalonia, i2CAT, IECISA tested remote specialized support, including HD video, to care for patients inside the vehicle

Vodafone Ireland & UCC (University College Cork) has established 5G-connected telemedicine & medical robotics training centre

Korea Telecom (KT) & Samsung has tested 5G digital pathology diagnosis, proton treatment information inquiry, 5G surgery guidance, AI-based smart care, & autonomous driving robots inside the operating room

Looking forward, what are the top 10 use cases that 5G can deliver to transform our healthcare ecosystem.

Top 10 use cases that the Healthcare ecosystem players can deliver leveraging 5G:

  1. Telesurgery  – robot-assisted precise & small-scale telesurgery enabled by 5G connectivity between robot & doctor
  2. Connected ambulances accelerating ER readiness – Paramedics can check patient info inside ambulance & send in real-time info to ER
  3. Remote patient monitoring – Wearable devices with 5G will effectively collect & transmit patient info
  4. Preventive care – 5G with wearables will provide real-time patient info to lower hospital readmission
  5. Remote consultations – Effective real-time medical consultations similar to F2F interactions with 5G
  6. Real-time delivery of medical records – Patient info e.g. large imaging files can be shared with specialists in real-time
  7. Remote ward rounds – Doctors can conduct remote ward rounds from anywhere via 5G devices
  8. Remote physical therapy – 5G with AR/VR can enable real-time interaction between patients & therapists
  9. AR | VR based medical training – will provide students real-time view of the procedures in operating room
  10. Streamlined administrative tasks – Automated tools for patient info, treatment recommendation and prescription fills

So, who are the key players in the 5G and Healthcare transformation ecosystem?

The below ecosystem players will have to work together to transform the healthcare ecosystem to deliver on the promise of 5G based healthcare transformation.

  1. Telecom Operators
  2. Hospitals & Clinics
  3. Assisted-living Facilities
  4. Home Care Agencies
  5. Pharmaceutical Companies
  6. Imaging and Diagnostics Companies
  7. Medical Insurance Companies
  8. Medical Technology Companies
  9. Wearable Device Manufactures
  10. IT Solution Companies
  11. App Developers
  12. Standards & Regulatory Organizations
  13. Government Bodies

How is 5G currently and in the future enable healthcare transformation?

Below are the key 5G characteristics that are enabling the mentioned ehealth use cases:

  1. High Throughput Capacity – upto 10 Gigabits/second E.g. for transmitting real-time patient info to ER
  2. Ultra Low Latency – as low as 1 millisecond E.g. must have for robot-assisted telesurgery
  3. High Reliability – 99.999% availability E.g. critical in emergency responses as well as user experience
  4. Massive Connectivity – 100x more connected devices/unit area (compared to 4G) E.g. for ehealth wearables
  5. Better Coverage – by reaching challenging locations E.g. for remote patient consultations
  6. Better User Mobility – Upto 500 km/hour E.g. efficient signalling for connected ambulance
  7. High Battery Life – 90% reduction in energy usage E.g. for remote patient monitoring or long surgeries

What additional technologies in conjunction with 5G are needed for healthcare transformation?

  1. Network Slicing
  2. Wearables
  3. Robotics
  4. Augmented Reality (AR)
  5. Virtual Reality (VR)
  6. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  7. Machine Learning (Ml)

What are the top 5 challenges faced by the healthcare industry in the adoption of 5G?

  1. Privacy standards – ensure 5g networks meet strict privacy standards of healthcare industry e.g. HIPAA
  2. Security concerns – ensure end-to-end security of data across mobile, IoT devices & network
  3. 5G compatible devices – current 4G/LTE smartphones are not compatible with 5G
  4. 5G network coverage – is currently limited to few countries within their metro / urban areas
  5. Healthcare organization technology upgrade– infrastructure, applications, devices need to be upgraded for 5G

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