Fifth-generation (5G) wireless increases speed and response rate of wireless networks, ensuring data to be transmitted as quickly as 5000 to 100,000 megabits per second. This facilitates mobile communications and changes the way smart devices are connected to the internet. Bringing the Internet of Things (IoT) to the next level. 

In medicine, 5G could support the expansion of telemedicine. Providing real-time consultation via the internet entails high quality and non-disruptive connections. The speed of 5G network could upkeep the required efficiency. At the same time, it can also handle the logistic demands coming from making or changing of medical appointments. According to a 2017 study published by Becker’s Hospital Review, the telemedicine market is expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 16.5% from now till 2023. The growth is brought about by the call for healthcare in rural areas and government initiatives. 

Better Communications and innovations 

5G does not stop at bringing healthcare closer to people, it also aids in communications. Images from high-resolution scans tend to create very large files, which rely on high bandwidth network to be delivered. Shall the need for a second opinion arise, 5G will enable physicians and clinicians to share patients’ information at a quicker speed possible. In turn, patients will not have to wait for an extended period of time for diagnosis or treatments. 

Likewise, in critical care scenarios, providing care may get tricky especially if the patients do not speak the same language as the care providers. Most healthcare systems come with translators who can assists healthcare professionals to overcome communication barriers. With a quick wireless network, translators could be based remotely but still be able to render support reliably and efficiently. 

As early as 2016, Ericsson and King’s College London had partnered in a project to translate the dexterity of human surgeons onto robots via remote control and 5G network. In this project, surgeons have to put on virtual reality gear and haptic gloves which pick on their movements and pressure on one end of the Earth. The information will then be transferred non-intermittently supported by the 5G network, to a robotic surgeon operating on a real patient situated on the other end of the Earth. 

The project not only enhances remote surgery but also opens a door to transfer skills across different networks, creating what known as the “Internet of Skills”. A step forward from “Internet of Medicine” (IoM) or the evolution of care through enhanced technology. 

Low latency but highly collaborative 

Low latency is the key behind 5G wireless network as we are now able to perform data-intensive tasks without worrying of a network lag. This coincides perfectly with the need to make precise and non-delay decisions in medicine. On one hand, it may lower the cost and further decentralize healthcare in long term. On the other hand, it also signifies the need for more collaborative work. 

Healthcare officials had placed telecom operators, app developers and pharmaceutical companies are their top collaborators. Not surprisingly, the mediators are the ones who build the bridge to connect patients to the healthcare systems. In turn, hospitals will eventually become the “data centers”, managing all the information that is going in and out of the system. Armed with precious details also mean healthcare institutions may be the initiators for many innovative projects. While all these may sound radical right now, it probably will not in a few years’ time. 

Author Bio
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Hazel Tang

A science writer with data background and an interest in current affair, culture and arts; a no-med from an (almost) all-med family. Follow on Twitter.