5G in Healthcare: Will Medical IoT Devices Be the Next Big Thing?

While the healthcare industry has made significant progress over the years leveraging the power of new technologies, there are still many scenarios in which current standards of care fall short of optimal frameworks.  

5G technology may be the answer to overcoming at least some of these challenges. According to Deloitte, VR and AR applications are already used in healthcare, but there are other remote healthcare applications that would benefit from greater reliability in network connections, provided by 5G technology, such as telehealth and telesurgery.

So what is 5G? The term “5G” refers to the fifth generation of telecommunications technology, a new type of infrastructure that will revolutionize the way individuals and organizations use the internet. This type of connection offers far more bandwidth than previous telecommunications technologies, reduces latency to near-zero, and provides far faster and more reliable internet service as a result.

Healthcare providers can use this technology to upgrade the speed and bandwidth of the networks that support them in their work. This enables faster and more reliable video connections, pro-active care based on feedback from medical devices, and large-scale analysis of patient data to improve health outcomes in the general population. 

In combination, these effects can significantly affect healthcare providers' ability to communicate with their patients, monitor the health of those patients, and deliver treatments and lifestyle recommendations at critical moments to ensure maximum effectiveness. 

5G Applications in Healthcare 

Implementing 5G in healthcare can make it much easier for healthcare professionals to connect and collaborate. Telehealth solutions have traditionally been unreliable, prone to lag, and generally insufficient for any useful exchange of health data. By eliminating many of these issues, 5G improves physicians' ability to communicate with patients and supplement their own knowledge with that of their peers. 

Perhaps more importantly, 5G in healthcare supports the implementation of the medical Internet of Things (IoT), an interconnected network of smart health devices that automatically report critical patient data for storage and analysis by software. This is one of the most promising new frontiers in medicine and may launch a new era of real-time patient-centered health services. 

5G and Big Data 

Health data is a powerful driver of new medical and pharmaceutical innovations. Medical IoT platforms allow healthcare organizations to collect and analyze data from patients on an ongoing basis, often in real-time. This feedback aggregates both individual and collective health data and synthesizes this information into useful health insights. The findings discovered during this type of analysis give healthcare workers a much wider knowledge base to work with as they strive to improve outcomes for their patients. 

With the higher speeds 5G provides, there is no limit to the amount of data that healthcare providers can send instantaneously through digital channels. This is especially helpful when high-resolution images such as x-rays are employed as part of the diagnostic process.

The increased bandwidth that 5G provides also facilitates heavier use of networks without compromising speeds, which is critical to IoT implementation. Without the additional power and speed of an improved connection, the predictive potential of healthcare IoT applications is hindered. In order to provide the timely health insights needed for effective interventions, networks must be able to facilitate hundreds or even thousands of data transfers simultaneously without slowing down. Early medical IoT and 5G use cases in healthcare suggest both technologies must integrate to produce the best results. 

5G, Remote Care and Telemedicine

Remote care is frequently the preferred option for seniors and people with extended health care needs who require extra care and support in their daily lives. However, these individuals often lack access to specialized forms of care that would help them achieve higher quality of life.

5G connections can improve specialists' ability to reach these underserved patients without any requirements for physical presence. This technology maintains strong connections that greatly reduce call lag as well as the frequency of dropped calls, resulting in fewer interruptions.

As a result, patients and practitioners can communicate more effectively and implement changes to improve the patient's health. The COVID-19 pandemic spurred a swift increase in the availability of telehealth services, signaling that these types of services are viable from both a technological and a demand standpoint. 

5G technology enables reliable remote care and monitoring that can supplement occasional in-person caregiving. Wearable monitoring devices provide continual insight into key health metrics like heart rate and blood pressure. Fluctuations in these readings can reveal new or worsening health conditions or even initiate medical intervention in emergency situations, such as a bad fall.

5G and the Continuum of Care 

5G connectivity can also drastically improve the healthcare industry’s ability to provide a continuum of care to patients. Individuals in different stages of life and in diverse circumstances require care adapted to their unique needs. Personalized medical services can make a significant difference in the effectiveness of medical interventions. 

5G and IoT technologies put those personalized services within patients’ reach. The monitoring capabilities keep patients informed about personal health trends, such as rising blood sugar levels that may indicate pre-diabetes. This early warning system can deter or even prevent many serious health incidents.  

These technologies also aid many patients in recovery when a health incident does occur. Individuals leaving the hospital are often relatively fragile physically, having only recently recovered from severe illness or injury. While they no longer need constant medical supervision, they are much more likely to experience health setbacks and other emergencies than the general population.

Combining 5G technology and IoT in healthcare allows providers to continually maintain a high standard of care as patients transition out of the hospital and back into their homes. If any troubling signs are revealed by a patient’s health data that might indicate a coming relapse, the patient's medical team can respond proactively. They can then take steps to keep the patient on the road to a full recovery.  

Digital Assistance for Better Patient Care 

Medical IoT devices have the potential to vastly improve the quality of care that patients receive, but they will need the help of 5G technology to do it.

With both these innovations working tandem, healthcare providers will be able to achieve excellent results for many patients while also increasing access to health services, improving convenience, and building a store of knowledge for future study. It will take time for 5G applications in healthcare to fully mature. But the improvements they will ultimately deliver will be invaluable in years to come.

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