4 Revolutionary Use Cases of 5G in Health Care
By Marco Stracuzzi
April 18, 2022
By Marco Stracuzzi
April 18, 2022
The health care IT market is searching for new ways advanced technology can play a more impactful role in transforming health care delivery.
With new 5G technologies emerging, health care IT services and applications are set to become better connected than ever. This development will have significant impacts on health care providers and patients alike.
5G opens new horizons for telehealth. Telehealth technology allows patients to connect virtually with doctors and other health care providers. It enables them to communicate via real-time video or live chat. As 5G promises to bring high speeds with low latency, telehealth applications will improve dramatically.
The health care industry’s network footprint grows each year. More health care services and applications depend on fast network speeds and low latency.
5G technology will turn antiquated health care systems in hospitals into smart hospitals that can deliver remote health care services to patients worldwide.
A pre-COVID-19 study by Market Research Future found that the telehealth market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 16.5% from 2017 to 2023. This growth is parallel with the emergence and rollout of 5G. It is foregone that these are likely to be higher growth rates now. Faster network speeds and care quality will allow doctors to engage remotely with patients in a more immersive way at home or in field hospitals without network blackouts, disconnections or lag time.
In the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, 5G eMBB technology will enable remote support of quality health care. Minimizing in-person visits to the doctor or health care facilities will reduce patient exposure to contagion. For patients who can’t easily travel to their health care providers, 5G will allow the provider to visit them via natural-feeling telepresence systems.
As a result, critical health care services can be delivered over a wireless network for chronically ill or quarantined patients. With the emergence of 5G, it might mean the difference between life and death for many.
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The health care industry produces massive data amounts. One patient can generate hundreds of gigabytes of data each day, from patient medical records to the large image files created by MRI, CAT or PET scans.
According to AT&T, “Adding a high-speed 5G network to existing architectures can help quickly and reliably transport huge data files of medical imagery, which can improve both access to care and the quality of care. At the Austin Cancer Center, the PET scanner generates extremely large files — up to 1 gigabyte of information per patient per study.”
“To get that much data from one side of the town to another, you’ve got to have the network performance to handle it. We used to have to send the files after hours. Now as soon as the patient leaves the scanner, the study is already on its way. It’s beneficial to doctors because they can get the results that they need quicker.”Jason Lindgren, CIO of Austin Cancer Center
A 5G network means that these large files can be transmitted quickly between doctors and hospitals. It reduces the time that would otherwise be needed to move them across often under-powered legacy wired networks prone to cuts and other service interruption issues. The time reduction 5G brings means more timely diagnostics, second opinions, treatment starts and adjustments. Medical data can be transmitted and consumed by doctors faster than ever before, whether at home or in the office.
Cellular 5G will also make it possible to set up broadband wireless connectivity for new clinics or temporary field hospitals during emergencies in hours without waiting for a wired line.
The switch to 5G also represents a long-term solution to the ever-rising need for bandwidth. Planned 5G data speed increases are more clearly keeping pace with improvements in diagnostic and medical imaging systems requirements than wired networks other than fiber-based.
There is currently no 5G-native, low-power standard. LTE-M and NB-IoT are LTE technologies fully embedded in 5G and carrying cellular connectivity for wearables. However, 5G native standards for battery-friendly devices are initially in store with LTE-M and NB-IoT operating in-band within the bandwidth of the 5G NR carrier.
Today, it’s operating inside the LTE carrier in 5G non-stand-alone (NSA). Later, as proposed for 5G-Advanced (Rel 18), RedCap evolution will deliver solutions for wearable and reduced capability devices, possibly down to 5 MHz. These solutions will also enhance low-power modes and maintain coexistence with Rel 17 RedCap and other 5G NR devices.
With the additional speed and lower power of 5G-enabled wearable devices, health care providers can monitor patients remotely and gather real-time data. Remote monitoring and data can be leveraged for preventative care and other individually-tailored health care provisions.
A report from Accenture reveals that the use of digital health technology is on the rise, with the use of wearables rising from 17% in 2020 to 24% in 2021. According to Lisa Anne Bove in her article for The Journal of Nurse Practitioners, wearables can increase patients’ engagement with their health. This engagement is expected to decrease hospital costs by 16% over the next five years.
Patients with chronic conditions can also retain autonomy and improve outcomes with more reliable, always-on mobile personal emergency response systems (PERS). AT&T notes that even though remote technology brings many benefits, usage is “limited by the capacity of the network to handle the data.” A slow network with unreliable connections could result in doctors being unable to meet with patients. It could get in the way of obtaining critical health care data about them, especially in an emergency.
5G technology reduces the chances of this happening. It allows health care providers to deliver treatment seamlessly to chronically ill patients across the fastest network available.
Innovations in medical device technology will provide more medical gadgets to patients who can reliably measure and monitor their health from home. These do-it-yourself innovations in health care will calibrate, gather and validate data from trusted sensors. The data can then be transmitted to various medical and health care professionals for analysis.
According to Qualcomm®, medical sensors will continue to improve as patient demand continues to surge. In 2017, the Qualcomm Tricorder XPrize medical device competition saw submissions approaching Star Trek-levels of portable functionality:
“The entry included a sensor that fits into the palm of your hand and is as user-friendly as your smartphone, enabling patients to easily measure their health at home. This was a major advancement, but one sensor alone really isn’t enough. The combination of numerous patient Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) devices and sensors helps doctors provide a complete health picture for their patients, leading to a personalized health treatment program.”
5G will make these technologies function in ways that 3G or 4G LTE couldn’t.
The health care industry needs to stay adaptable to fully leverage the wave of novel applications enabled by 5G networks. Negotiating the historical challenges of information security and privacy becomes only more complicated in critical health care contexts.
Work with us for a technology partner that understands health care and hospital systems’ unique needs. We have the expertise to guide your cellular connectivity upgrade in legacy telehealth devices. Our solutions can help you launch entirely novel applications or guide your 5G integration into innovative devices. Check out our IoT applications for health care for case studies and a direct link to contact our team.
Editor’s Note: This blog was originally published on 24 July 2019 and has since been updated.