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5G - the Potential to Transform Digital Healthcare

The healthcare industry worldwide is on the cusp of transformation, huge leaps in technology are impacting it at every level.

The healthcare industry worldwide is on the cusp of transformation, huge leaps in technology are impacting it at every level. Alongside scientific and medical research and breakthroughs, this includes deploying technology in new ways to automate healthcare operations and delivery of care.

Connectivity is the major influence that is transforming the healthcare industry. 5G technology in particular offers the promise of extending and improving healthcare for patients all over the world.

Faster and more reliable data transfer allows healthcare providers to transmit large amounts of data, including high-resolution images and videos in real time, which in turn assists in consultation, diagnosis, and treatment.

5G technologies have brought about an entirely new ecosystem, providing improved access to information and medical facilities, which can cater to people’s new expectations of healthcare delivery. It has also enabled healthcare providers to extend the reach of cost-effective, accurate, efficient, and convenient healthcare at scale and speed

Impact and Uses of 5G in Healthcare

The 5G healthcare market is expected to reach USD 3.67 billion by 2026. From supporting telemedicine and remote care to enabling real-time remote monitoring and AI systems, there are numerous ways in which 5G can help deliver more personalised healthcare.

With 5G promising speed and easy real-time information sharing, medical treatment can be preventative, rather than reactive. Some of the prominent 5G use cases include Connected Patients, Remote Healthcare and Telemedicine, Remote Assistance, Automation and Robotic Surgery, Emergency Care and others.

Given the huge shortage of nurses as reported by the NHS, 5G can enable large-scale remote monitoring of patients. Similarly, Telemedicine can help build easy connections between patients and healthcare providers.

With wider outreach now a clear possibility, patients in remote areas can access healthcare more easily. The 5G network supports high-definition video consultations with no delays to ensure a seamless experience. This saves time for both patients and providers and is particularly valuable during emergencies.  

For chronic afflictions that require constant monitoring, 5G technology can help healthcare providers to keep track of patients, while they continue their normal lives. The patients can avoid hospitalisation, and hospitals can focus on constant monitoring and round-the-clock medical care.

Smart interventions enabled by 5G technology mean that senior surgeons can advise the surgical team remotely during an operation, thus providing the critical medical support needed and reducing wait times for patients.

Virtual and Augmented Reality

The West Midlands 5G programme and the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust performed UK’s first remote ultrasound scan over a public 5G network. A paramedic performed the ultrasound scan under the remote guidance of a clinician, who was able to interpret the images in real time.

5G’s bandwidth and low latency make it possible to use Virtual or Augmented Reality to treat patients, either through distraction therapy, pain management, rehabilitation and exposure therapy. For example, under the Liverpool 5G Health and Social Care project, 5G-connected VR headsets were given to patients in palliative care and were used for distraction therapy and pain management.

In case of an urgent need or emergency, 5G technology can enable faster and more reliable communication so that the nearest ambulance or care can be delivered to the patient, all while the doctors advise emergency personnel on first-aid/ treatment, besides closely monitoring patients’ conditions. In the UK, for instance, mobile clinics and ambulances use 5G to receive real-time updates and provide remote triage, diagnosis, and treatment of patients.

Infosys has helped healthcare providers adopt 5G technology by bringing in domain experts from telecom and healthcare together to design better services.

Leveraging data to perform descriptive-predictive-prescriptive analytics and transferring it with recommendations in milliseconds to the user using 5G can enhance the user experience and help them make informed decisions.

The potential benefits of 5G technology in healthcare are significant, and healthcare institutions that can successfully adopt it will have a competitive advantage in the market.