In recent years, the deployment of 5G has sparked a digital transformation across numerous industries, including healthcare. This cutting-edge mobile technology has the potential to revolutionise how medical treatments and services are delivered, while supporting the utilisation and monitoring of vital resources and medical equipment. The advanced capabilities that 5G networks offer, including enhanced connectivity, efficiency, and care, can ultimately lead to improved patient outcomes.
The progressive potential of 5G networks significantly surpass the capabilities of 4G and earlier networks. With latency as low as 1 millisecond, data transmission becomes almost instantaneous, and increased bandwidth can effectively support the real-time exchange of high volumes of data. 5G’s high-performance connectivity can support a wide range of existing and forthcoming health tech innovations, highlighting the network’s ability to elevate healthcare services and improve future care quality and patient experience.
Wearables and Remote Patient Monitoring
5G networks hold the ability to improve patient health monitoring by enabling healthcare providers to remotely oversee patients through this advanced technology. By leveraging 5G-enabled wearable devices designed for quantification and preventative care, doctors and caregivers gain easy access to real-time patient data. Connected wearables and medical devices can monitor the health status of patients, and with the incorporation of 5G technology, care providers can swiftly access crucial information. Real-time results enable healthcare professionals to react promptly, ensuring patients receive exceptional levels of care.
5G technology has the capabilities to facilitate real-time remote consultations between patients and doctors by supporting high-resolution video calls. The utilisation of 5G in this way enables swifter and more reliable communication between care providers and patients, and allows doctors to virtually meet, monitor, and diagnose patients without the need for in-person appointments. This advancement amplifies time efficiency and convenience for all parties.
Emergency Response Management
The global rise in popularity of 5G connected ambulances, and this revolutionary way of delivering healthcare, has now reached the UK thanks to a collaborative effort between Ericsson, University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB), and King’s College London. The UK’s first remote diagnostic procedure over a 5G network was carried out in Birmingham over a live 5G network, hosted by BT, showcasing the immense potential of this innovative method of healthcare delivery.
Operating via a live 5G network, connected ambulances offer a new approach to linking first responders with clinicians. Paramedics can send vital information to the hospital before arrival using a specific type of 5G known as Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communication (URLLC), which offers latency as low as 1-millisecond. With 5G, paramedics and remote healthcare providers can collaborate in real-time, regardless of their location. The speed of information exchange can be detrimental to the coordination and delivery of medical assistance, and the swiftness made possible by 5G can ultimately impact patient outcomes positively.
Surgical and medical procedures often generate large image and data files that urgently need reviewed by healthcare specialists. Leveraging 5G technology facilitates rapid transmission of large file types, with transmission rates of 10 gigabits per second possible. The high bandwidth of 5G networks empowers these speedy transmission times, resulting in a reduction to patient wait times for treatments and results, therefore improving patient care. This accelerated data transfer capability of 5G technology also enables healthcare providers to see a larger number of patients in shorter time frames, further enhancing the efficiency and reach of care delivery.
Risks and Constraints
Despite the many advantages boasted by 5G, the advanced capabilities of the technology can come at a hefty cost. The deployment of the network entails substantially higher costs in comparison to its predecessors. This is largely attributed to the need for expensive 5G-enabled hardware devices, the installation of new infrastructure, and requirements for frequent device upgrades or replacements to ensure optimal software use. The high costs associated with the network could deter many healthcare providers and potentially limit the network’s growth within this market.
A significant downfall of 5G networks is their susceptibility to cyber-attacks and security breaches. This vulnerability comes as a result of the network’s notable data storage and transmission capabilities. With its vast number of databases containing highly sensitive data, the healthcare sector already poses as a target for attacks and threats, so potential investors in 5G technology within healthcare must carefully weigh the possible risks and implement suitable security measures to safeguard their data.
The rise in prominence of 5G networks presents intriguing prospects for revolutionising the healthcare sector and transforming how care is delivered and received. Yet, the daunting challenges, including high costs and security risks, pose hinderances that require careful consideration. The balance between these advantages and potential drawbacks will likely shape the trajectory of the integration of 5G technology into the healthcare sector and will prompt assessment of whether the benefits can outweigh the risks.