The healthcare IT market is continuously searching for new ways advanced technology can play a more impactful role in transforming healthcare delivery.

With the emergence of new 5G technologies, IT services and applications within the healthcare industry are set to become better connected than ever — a development that will have significant impacts for both healthcare providers and patients alike.

5G opens entirely new horizons for telehealth, the technology that allows patients to connect virtually with doctors and other healthcare providers, communicating via real-time video or live chat.

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Telehealth allows chronically ill patients to obtain critical healthcare when they might otherwise have difficulty leaving their homes to travel their doctors to receive care. As 5G promises to bring ultra-fast speeds with low latency, telehealth applications will improve dramatically.

The healthcare industry’s network footprint grows each year, meaning more and more healthcare services and applications depend on fast network speeds and low latency.

5G technology will help turn antiquated healthcare systems in hospitals into smart hospitals that can deliver remote healthcare services to patients around the world.


1. Telehealth

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, 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 the quality of care will allow doctors to engage remotely with patients at home or in field hospitals without the worry of network blackouts, disconnections or lag time.

In the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, 5G eMBB technology will enable remote support of quality healthcare while reducing patient exposure to contagion by minimizing in-person visits to the doctor or healthcare facilities. For patients who can’t easily travel to their healthcare providers, 5G will allow the provider to visit them via natural-feeling telepresence systems.

As a result, critical healthcare 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.


2. Large Data Files

The healthcare industry produces massive amounts of data. A single 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,” says Jason Lindgren, CIO of Austin Cancer Center. “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.”

A 5G network means that these large files can be transmitted quickly between doctors and hospitals, reducing 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 reduction in time that 5G brings means more timely diagnostics, second opinions, treatment starts and adjustments since the medical data can be transmitted and consumed by doctors faster than ever before, whether at home or in the office.

The switch to 5G also represents a long-term solution to the ever-rising need for bandwidth since 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 can.


3. Real-Time Remote Monitoring

With 5G-enabled wearable devices, healthcare providers can monitor patients remotely and gather real-time data for preventative care and other individually-tailored healthcare provisions.

A report from Accenture reveals that 65% of consumers and 86% of doctors agree that wearables 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. 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 unable to meet with patients and obtain critical healthcare data about them, especially in an emergency.

5G technology reduces the chances of this happening and allows healthcare providers to deliver treatment seamlessly to chronically ill patients across the fastest network available.

5G Healthcare

4. Sensor Innovation

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 healthcare will calibrate, gather and validate data from trusted sensors. The data can then be transmitted to a variety of 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.


Telit IoT Solutions in Healthcare

The healthcare 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 healthcare contexts.

Work with Telit for a tech partner that understands the unique needs of healthcare and hospital systems and has the expertise to upgrade legacy systems and launch entirely novel applications. Check out our IoT applications for healthcare 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.