The Promise of 5G in Healthcare Technology

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the need for innovation across the healthcare continuum. Data sharing, operational efficiencies, and patient-provider relationships have been strained because of the new challenges healthcare systems are facing. 

Leaders in the field must find ways to provide stability during uncertainty, while creating opportunities for post-pandemic growth. 

One high-yield way to create such opportunity involves implementing 5G – the fifth generation of wireless cellular connectivity – which promises ultra-low latency, up to 10 Gbps data transfer speeds, and over 100x improvement in the number of devices connected per unit area.  

The result? A healthcare system that enhances the patient-provider relationship and offers both parties more valuable insights to properly manage a patient’s health, positively impacting care pathways and clinical decision making.  

What is 5G Technology?

Before looking at 5G applications in healthcare technology, it is helpful to review 5G’s pioneering capabilities over existing 4G networks.

  • Low Latency – Latency measures how long a signal takes to go from its source to its receiver, and then back again. 5G supports response times at ~10 ms (faster than human visual processing), compared to 4G latency at ~40-50 ms. This means lag times and delays are virtually removed, offering accurate and real-time data and video exchange.
  • High Speed – 5G is up to ~100x faster than existing 4G technology. 5G Ultra Wideband runs up to 10 Gbps, allowing for near instant download and upload throughput for large data sharing. Devices that require large data updates can be serviced remotely using 5G and will become more energy efficient after being redesigned for 5G compatibility.
  • Increased Connectivity and Capability – Due to operation in higher frequency bands, 5G can carry significantly more data for a large number of simultaneous users. It is capable of supporting up to 1 million devices in a square kilometer, providing a significant improvement over 4G. This increased capacity means every sports fan in a stadium could stream HD videos at the same time without any latency or speed issues.

The impact of 5G doesn’t stop there. 5G-enabled technology is also anticipated to provide connection stability while moving at high speeds, reduce network service and application deployment time, and offer greater security and identity management.

How can 5G Transform Healthcare Technology?

With enhanced reliability, speed, and scale, 5G allows for a new connected healthcare ecosystem that can power the latest approaches to disease prevention, diagnosis, intervention, and recovery. 

Those use cases that might be most relevant – given the pressure COVID-19 has placed on our healthcare system – are applications that enable patients to seek medical consult and care from home. 

Amidst nationwide shutdowns and social distancing measures, there has been an increased demand for remote healthcare technology solutions such as telehealth appointments. These appointments require a network that can support real-time, high-quality video. 5G allows for a more reliable connection, meaning providers can make a more accurate remote diagnosis in reduced time. 

In addition, providers can leverage 5G to share patient scans and review them collaboratively in real-time. Using augmented and virtual reality technologies, these scans can also be viewed and annotated in 3D space for pre-surgical planning and education.   

Another application for 5G is remote patient monitoring through 5G-enabled wearables and health trackers. Remote monitoring technology is presently restricted by the network’s capability to handle data. But with 5G-enabled healthcare technology, which has lower latency and higher capacity, providers can be confident they’re receiving real-time data. This, in combination with edge computing, can help providers analyze patient data as it is actively received to flag patients who are at risk for worsening conditions or require intervention. 

5G applications are not limited to these use cases. By enabling a connected ecosystem of devices, 5G healthcare technology can have a huge impact on end-to-end patient management. 

Take a connected ambulance, for example. Using 5G technology, providers can offer real-time input to EMTs delivering medical assistance while a sick or injured patient is in transport to the hospital. The emergency department can also obtain any patient diagnostics prior to their arrival, which informs triaging. Then, after care is received, remote monitoring technology can be used to routinely check on the patient, allowing the patient to return home sooner and ultimately reduce hospital costs. 

11TEN innovation partners is driving 5g-enabled healthcare technology towards reality

From optimizing provider workflows to enabling the implementation of new technologies that better manage patients, 5G can have a transformative impact on all aspects of a healthcare system. Now’s the time to begin strategizing and planning for a network upgrade. 

11TEN Innovation Partners is actively working with ecosystem partners, such as Verizon and Emory, to expand 5G offerings and create more standardized experiences for providers and patients.    

Whether you’re looking to implement a 5G network or test devices on a 5G network, or need expertise to define, develop, and realize a new 5G-enabled healthcare technology, we can offer the additional resources and leadership you require. Visit our Innovation Lab page and contact us today to turn the opportunity of 5G into a reality. 

Watch the video below to see how 11TEN partnered with Emory Healthcare & Verizon to launch the first 5G Healthcare Lab.