5G has exciting potential for medical professinals | Source: Pexels

5G in 5 minutes for healthcare specialists

IMAGINE a world where your patients are never too far away from you. Whether you’re the family doctor who is well versed with the medical history of a certain community or the specialist whose judgment people rely on, you’re always available to help.

Or think of a world where everyone has access to the best medical care, even without the actual number of medical graduates skyrocketing – all because new and emerging technologies make you far more efficient than you’ve ever been.

Sounds fanciful, right? But it isn’t. It’s a world that visionaries are building right now, and 5G is the network that’s supporting the infrastructure they’re building to transform the healthcare industry.

In fact, according to Goldman Sachs, as the industry begins a shift in focus from volume-based healthcare to value-based (outcome-based) healthcare, the world could save up to US$650 billion by 2025. Further, according to IHS Markit, 5G will enable more than $1 trillion dollars in products and services for the global healthcare sector.

Now, simply put, 5G has the following dimensions or ‘avatars’.

  1. Massive IoT or mMTC (massive machine type communications)
  2. enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), and
  3. Ultra Reliable and Low Latency Communications (URLLC).

However, in essence, what they’re designed to do is provide a reliable, strong, and quick connection, often with less power and more efficiency. Here are some of the new possibilities opened up by 5G for healthcare professionals:

The Internet of Medical Things, powered by Massive IoT

The current generation of wearable devices can monitor patients quite well, but connectivity and battery life are still an issue.

In fact, according to an Ericsson study, 59 percent of consumers say that they are concerned about poor connectivity affecting data transmission and 56 percent of consumers with chronic ailments worry about their health patches suddenly running out of battery.

However, 42 percent of the cross-industry decision makers surveyed by Ericsson expect that devices connected to 5G networks will consume less power, reducing the frequency of recharges.

In the future, once 5G networks are live, you’ll be able to rely on wearable devices to continually capture, collect, and electronically transmit patient medical data to you without network failures or battery issues.

Important metrics such as vital signs, physical activity, and even ingestion of prescribed medication can be monitored electronically. You can then use this data to remotely make decisions about next steps for your patients.

In fact, the Internet of Medical Things is expected to grow as the patient-monitoring wearable market, which includes remote and on-site devices, expands from 8 million shipments (from last year) to 33 million in 2021.

Life-like medical services powered by eMBB

Thanks to the strong infrastructure provided by 5G, you can remotely check on your patients using augmented reality and virtual reality, and even perform surgery on them.

Yeah, sounds challenging right? This application is actually being explored by several institutions. Here’s a video that povides a live demo of what such a surgery will look like.

Further, 5G can also support training of doctors and practitioners. QTI, for example, is producing a medical VR experience to train medical students on the physiology and diagnosis of stroke, using VR to enable medical students to walk a virtual pace through a stroke exam.

VR could also be used to help

Patient care with live-in robots

According to Ericsson, a prominent use of 5G for healthcare will be to enhance patient care and health informatics with greater connectivity is through live-in robots that facilitate telemedicine to provide constant critical care to patients.

Filippo Cavallo, Assistant Professor at the BioRobotics Institute near Pisa said:

“5G can enable us to implement complex healthcare services and improve the capability of robots to learn to recognize new objects and perform complex tasks. We can have robots to support in assisting elderly people, for example.”

When the robot is connected, a doctor can give instructions for it to visit the patient’s bedside. Using the robot’s two-way audio-visual teleconferencing feature, the doctor and patient can interact and share medical information easily and naturally.