Is 5G Going to be a Big Revolution in Healthcare Domain?
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Is 5G Going to be a Big Revolution in Healthcare Domain?

By Enterprise Networking Mag | Tuesday, August 27, 2019

5G has a tremendous impact on healthcare technologies. It provides speed, reliability, and stability to all the electronic systems connected to it, thus helping doctors provide the best possible treatment for their patients from wherever they are and in less time.

FREMONT, CA: Usually, when we get sick, we have only one choice i.e., travel to the doctor or the hospital. After that, we have to wait in a queue to get our treatment. Frustrating, isn't it?  However, with the advent of telehealth, it has become possible to receive medical care from the comfort of our houses.

The credit for this goes to the latest fifth-generation cellular wireless (5G) network, which will offer massive improvements in care quality as well as make it possible for everybody to get their treatment done at affordable costs. One of the biggest challenges the IoT is facing right now is the slow networking speeds due to congestion. 5G promises of low latency, high bandwidth, and low-power-low-cost network by enabling the devices to download data over 1 gigabit per second (1gb/s), which is 100 times speedier than present day's 4G services. The high-bandwidth of 5G is noteworthy. It transmits a 360-degree display of virtual reality and 12 ultra-high-definition video streams over one network connection, for example.

5G will surpass 4G in at least three features—capacity, latency, and customization. Capacity provides the benefit of an increase in bandwidth and speed along with the potential to link to more devices at once, which is good news for the Internet of Things (IoT) networks. Currently, connected devices and smart sensors and other IoT tools are putting present networks under immense strain. 5G can support millions of devices where 4G could only support 4000 devices per square kilometer.

The second feature i.e., latency, or we can say in other words, the responsiveness of a provided system will be responsible for the upgradation of remote controlling in various sectors. Today, on pressing submit button on a Google search by a user, it takes about 50 milliseconds for the request to reach Google's servers, and further the search result to travel back. However, in a 5G network, it will take one millisecond. This is essential for the development of telehealth, especially telesurgeries.

5G's third feature is customized networks. Operators can create sub-networks with features according to specific requirements, instead of clients linking to the same systems. For example, a network could be there for telehealth that emphasizes the lowest latency rate, simultaneously fast download speed as well as vast geographical coverage for medical images' transmission.

Healthcare will be benefitted from 5G technology in numerous aspects so that the quality of healthcare services can be improved and delay in the patient's care can be avoided. Here is how 5G can help healthcare organizations meet the increasing demands of digital transformation.

1. Fast transmission of big imaging files: MRIs and other image machines are huge files, and the files must be sent to a specialist for review. If the network is low on bandwidth, the transmission might take a lot of time to reach the specialist, or in some cases, it might not be sent successfully. This results in the patients waiting for a longer time period, and service providers will get to see fewer patients. Hence, the rest of the patients have to suffer.

With the high-speed 5G network, the present architecture can quickly help and transfer huge data files of medical imagery. This will bring improvement in both access to care as well as the quality of care. For example, in Austin Cancer Center, the PET scanner generates huge files around 1 gigabyte of information for each patient per study. As soon as their patient leaves, the study is already transferred to the doctor. Thus, a significant amount of time is saved.

2. Improvement in VR, AR, and spatial computing: Augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and spatial computing are currently being utilized in healthcare, but on a limited basis. However, 5G can enhance a doctor's potential to provide innovative and less invasive treatments.

Remotely controlled surgeries can be done using wireless technology because of superior image quality and reduced latency. Recently, in 2019, a Chinese surgeon did the world's first remote surgery on an animal using 5G. In this 5G surgery, he controlled an arm which was robotic in a remote location at the distance of 30 miles. Increased image quality, low latency periods, and definition will enable the doctors to take vital decisions in less time and with the most reliable information available.

3. Use of Robots: Robotics has huge potential in healthcare. The robots used in surgeries need high computational power to image processing from cameras and movement. In the emerging field of cloud robotics, the speed of information exchange is essential since all the knowledge collected by a robot linked to the cloud platform has to be passed on to other robots on the same platform.

4. Expansion of telemedicine: Telemedicine needs a network that can assist real-time superior-quality video, which means wired networks. Healthcare system, with the support of 5G, can allow mobile networks to manage telemedicine appointments, which can significantly enhance the reach of the program.

With the healthcare utilizing this technology, the patient will get their treatment without delay and can have access to specialists, who patients are unable to reach. It will also enable doctors and their other staff members to work together more efficiently.

5. Authentic, real-time remote monitoring: The Internet of Things (IoT) devices enable healthcare providers to monitor patients and collect data that can be utilized to improve preventive and personalized care. According to Anthems, 86% of doctors say that wearables enhance patient engagement with their health. Wearables, which are a regular type of remote monitoring, are forecasted to reduce hospital expense by 16% in the next five years.

However, the usage of remote monitoring technology is limited because of the network's potential to handle data. The slow speed of the network is a big hurdle for the real-time data to reach the doctors who need to make quick healthcare decisions.

With lower latency and higher potential, 5G can enable healthcare systems to offer remote monitoring for more patients. Providers can thus receive the data in real-time and can also provide the treatment and care that their patients need and expect from them.

6. Artificial Intelligence (AI): Many healthcare systems have started making use of AI for determining a potential diagnosis and decide the best treatment plan for a particular patient. Besides, AI can assist in predicting which patients are more probable to have post-operative complications, enabling healthcare systems to offer early interventions.

The huge amounts of data required for quick real-time learning need ultra-reliable and high bandwidth networks. Also, providers need to have access to data from their mobile devices.

By introducing 5G networks, healthcare institutes can make use of AI tools to offer the best care possible.

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