It’s no surprise that the soon to be implemented 5G network, platforms and solutions will play a vital role in Healthcare. Imagine a surgeon being able to remotely perform diagnosis or surgery using feedback from touch-sensitive – haptic information, along with real-time audio and visual information. Access to specialists and zero travel, truly amplify the new normal to personalized healthcare from anywhere.
When I look back at my earliest experiences in Medical Device Interface design & development to where we are today, spanning 25 years, it is the ubiquitous nature of adoption at a mass level that is the single most driving factor. The earliest adoption was for athletes who wore Heart Monitors as part of their Cardio sessions. This then had to be hooked up to a computer for downloading and interpretation by a specialist. Today, one finds basic SPO2 monitoring device with Heart Rate and Pulse monitoring that sit right alongside a digital thermometer at our homes.
VR gaming platforms like Occulus, Playstation VR, Microsoft HoloLens, HTC Vive and many more, with tactile gloves that interface with a robot across planets, bring the surgeon within the same sensory environment as the patient.
5G low latency, high-bandwidth and throughput
The above approach is not new – but it is becoming reality, thanks to 5G.
5G systems provide enhanced mobile broadband, dynamic low latency, wider bandwidths, device-centric mobility, simultaneous redundant and reliable device-to-device links and shared spectrum.
Earlier, Operation theatres, where a surgeon reacted while physically being present, needed availability of patient records (including CTScans, XRAY imaging and other similar information) under 8-10 milliseconds as specified by WHO. These hold true even for conducting a surgeon assisted by a robot, operating remotely. Now, account for delivery of these information including stimuli and response to be delivered over a network, at near instantaneous time including the time required to compress and decompress multi-media, rich video content that also factors in the reaction time.
5G connectivity addresses these requirements and overcomes these limitations through increased bandwidth usage, coupled with intelligent network that can separate and prioritize life-critical functions, such as massive machine to machine communication and computation, that is required for conducting remote tactile surgery.
Future state: The world within a tactile glove
The usage of 5G in tactile remote, robotic surgery notwithstanding, the future is even more important to consider, where one leverages the real-time, near instantaneous interaction with a person on the other side of the planet, to make collaboration and learning fluid and relevant.
Getting access to specialists, educators to use these haptic, tactile demonstration of surgical techniques to coach and diagnose, not to mention giving visually impaired students to add the physical context.
Apart from healthcare the potential uses extend to primary and secondary education through areas such as visiting industrial centres, museums, theatres, automobile factories, by just putting on a pair of tactile gloves and a VR headset, invoking a greater level of immersive experience.
Understanding healthcare data gravity in the context of 5G
Connecting a wide range of devices and healthcare services using cellular telecommunications bands that is relatively cost-efficient, through edge computing, enhanced healthcare data gathering and analysis, and improved machine efficiency and the reliability of network communications has begun using 5G.
This development and promotion of disruptive technological healthcare solutions promotes a larger connected healthcare ecosystem that necessitate data gravity – more data attracts more technology and software solutions.
As data collection increases, exponentially, increasingly sophisticated systems, are needed to process, distribute, and store it securely. This calls for increased healthcare data governance and regulation – classification, security, collection, storage, transmission, retention and purging of patient and related healthcare data. That then becomes a parallel area to be addressed while leveraging the reach and capability of 5G.
Healthcare is an important service sector that has far reaching implications in the quality of living aided by 5G that can play a constructive role in providing better services. Research and partnerships both in terms of technology enablers and academia within the healthcare industry are dreaming up new applications and services to influence and disrupt our preconceptions.
The extended abilities, understanding and knowledge beyond geographical limitations, sharing expertise across a connected world that can be accessed by everyone, enabled through 5G across fields of healthcare, medicine, education, gaming, extending to sociology and culture, governance and regulations, whether using the internet to facilitate surgery on the other side of the planet, drastically reducing latency for truly immersive mobile gaming experiences, making expert skills and knowledge available to anyone through remote transfer and collaboration, needs to be balanced with a sense of data gravity and acknowledgement of the regulatory obligations.
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