5G and Healthcare AI
Enhancing Healthcare: The transformative impact of 5G technology
Do you remember? In 2018 and 2019, when this next-generation wireless network began rolling out, it felt like this was the tagline of every cell service provider advertisement.
Now, we’re saying the same thing about healthcare: 5G is here! Except… when it’s not.
Let us explain what we mean.
5G networks are revolutionizing the power of our healthcare technology—from Internet of Things (IoT) devices to hospital network connectivity. Especially when it comes to AI-enabled healthcare tools, the power of 5G makes a huge difference.
Just take a look at these market projections. It’s clear the digital health world is ready for 5G to take off.
5G is only as powerful as it is available. And network connectivity is still not universal—even across many areas of the U.S.
So what does the future of 5G in healthcare actually look like? And where does healthcare AI fit in? Let’s get into it.
Today, we’re discussing some of the future healthcare 5G use cases we’re the most excited about. And examining what our industry still needs to do to make this future a reality.
5G: The prerequisite for true connectivity with smart healthcare tools
Providers around the world have begun testing out robotics, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR) tools for training—and even practice. But 5G takes their capacity to the next level. We’re talking sci-fi-level futurism existing in today’s ORs.
And no, we’re not referring to that debunked video of the 5G-enabled banana surgery.
These devices allow surgical trainees to be precisely guided and supervised by instructors who connect to their field of view—and can annotate it in real time.
And that level of surgical collaboration goes beyond just an individual trainee class or med school. Think bigger.With this technology, surgeons can communicate and collaborate with specialists from across the globe—who no longer need to physically travel to assist.
Of course, for the real-time precision of these tools to truly work in practice, 5G connectivity must be uninterrupted for all parties and meet high privacy and security standards. For many hospitals across the U.S., that level of connectivity is still a work-in-progress.
5G is poised to transform remote medical services
If so, you’ll remember we discussed how digital health tools are bridging the gap between remote populations and urban health centers, where much of medical technology is centralized. Because where a patient lives shouldn’t determine what level of care they can get.
And we’re not just talking fitness trackers and video chat appointments here.
The rise of 5G connectivity is making telesurgery more and more viable. Bringing complex surgeries to areas where specialist surgeons aren’t available.
With 5G, the opportunities for imagining new approaches to remote care are endless. For example, in China, proposed personalized nursing robots rely on both 5G connectivity and AI to provide first aid care where human providers are unavailable.
Hey, if you ask us, that beats Dr. WebMD!
5G in Healthcare: Where we are now and where we need to go
Of course, there’s a big difference between designing a tool and being able to use it in practice.
In many areas across the world—and even the US—network connectivity still does not measure up to what’s needed to operate our latest healthcare innovations. So what do we do?
Before we can take full advantage of these 5G-enabled healthcare tools, we need to bridge the digital divide.
So far, it seems like the U.S. government is on it. In particular, the Department of Veterans Affairs has been investing in healthcare-based 5G infrastructure for some time now. The VA’s Project Convergence involves collaboration with Verizon, Microsoft, and Medvis to provide clinicians with a 5G-powered AR headset.
At the same time, cellular providers like Verizon have been spearheading 5G rollouts across the country—even planning to help build a new, fully-5G-enabled hospital in Ohio.
As we get excited about 5G in healthcare, we need to remember the communities we’re leaving behind.
And yes, it may be tempting to just be grateful for your own access to advanced network connectivity and digital technologies.
But remember that maximizing widespread connectivity improves health for all of us. It ensures the interconnectivity of more healthcare providers—for maximum advising and collaboration. And it enables the exchange of health information to better inform research that impacts all of us.
Plus, here’s the thing: Bridging the digital divide is just the right thing to do.
So, if you live in a country or state with many rural populations (and let’s face it, most of us do!), we encourage you to look into what their network connectivity status is. How are their hospitals doing with access to networks and digital technologies?
Remember that, as a tech-savvy healthcare leader, you have the power to call for action on the digital divide—especially in your local area. Put pressure on your representatives to fund network infrastructure.
Read up and speak up. Don’t just leave the future of healthcare 5G to Verizon.