5G has been the talk of the town for years and not just in healthcare. Industry, retail, tech, every industry under the sun seems to be singing 5G’s praises despite most of these discussions focusing mostly on hypothetical benefits. This is because 5G hasn’t been around for very long and has hardly been made widely available, leading to a lack of concrete evidence of 5G’s improvements. This isn’t the case for the healthcare space, however, that has already seen proven success integrating 5G with devices such as robotics and medical grade computers

5G healthcare has started to pick up quite a bit of traction in the past couple of years with actual use cases being brought to the spotlight. In fact, the Veterans Affairs hospital in Palo Alto, California is set to become one of the first ever 5G enabled healthcare facilities in the world as parts of the hospital have already begun operation.

With instances such as this and many more becoming common, excitement for 5G has started to become a little more concrete and warranted. Patients and physicians alike are excited to finally see the advancements they’ve been promised for years! 

But, what exactly are these advancements and use cases? And, if they’re really so close, how can providers prepare to make sure they’re ready to deploy new 5G healthcare technologies?  

5G Healthcare Use Cases

5G is the 5th generation of mobile internet, primarily setting itself apart from 4G with its much higher frequency signals. These signals deliver exponentially faster speeds, less latency, and less unexpected internet blackouts. 

Sounds fancy, but what are the actual applications in healthcare? 

1. Telehealth

We’ve discussed before the spike in at home care that’s arisen as a result of the US’ rapidly aging population. It only adds up that, as a result, telehealth communication between patients and physicians would also increase in popularity. With so many citizens becoming unable to make it to their doctors’ offices without difficulty, the allure of running diagnostics or answering questions within the comfort of one’s living room is prominent. 

That said, 5G Healthcare delivers a host of benefits for telehealth practices. We mentioned earlier that 5G delivers less latency and more real time transferring of information. This is incredibly helpful for physicians and patients who communicate regularly over video chats or calls due to distance or an inability to travel. 5G’s more reliable internet cuts down on lost connections and internet blackouts that would normally force a patient to make a trek to their far-off care provider.

Fast internet also allows patients and physicians to share health data in real time. Patients with health tracking wearables can quickly send their physicians valuable information as soon as it becomes available, allowing providers to adapt care at a moment’s notice should it be necessary.      

2. Clinical Collaboration

Healthcare facilities deal with an almost comically large amount of patient data. In digital pathology, something like an MRI scan that relies on high resolution imaging outputs gigabytes worth of data for a single patient. This might not be an issue if the files are being circulated within the same building, but that changes once we start discussing clinical collaboration. Sharing those gargantuan files across the internet to other facilities can take a noticeably long time, hindering urgent care and responsive adaptations to treatment.

A 5G network means that these large files can be sent from one facility to another in an instant. This allows specialists from different hospitals who normally wouldn’t be able to support each other in a timely manner to provide comprehensive, responsive care to their shared patients. 

In the case of a patient suffering from cancer, for example, caregivers from a number of different specialties such as surgeons, radiologists, and pathologists need to convene to discuss coordinated treatment. Many times, these specialists aren’t from the same hospital or network. 5G internet speeds allow them to meet, share data, and collaborate digitally without any latency or dropped connections.

3. Telesurgery

5G’s low latency doesn’t just aid in communication between doctors and patients, it even empowers communication between doctors and robots. 

Pairing 5G speeds and latency with controlled surgical robots results in surgery that can be performed by a doctor from miles away! Of course, the machinery and networks needed to conduct these surgeries must be beyond fine-tuned before they’re used consistently and on patients with varying conditions. That said, test runs of telesurgery capabilities have proved rather promising! The process has already been successfully tested and performed on both animals and humans

While this particular application of 5G may be a ways off, it’s important to see that the capabilities are indeed there and telesurgery applications are likely in our future. 

How Can Providers Prepare for 5G Healthcare?

With telehealth and clinical collaboration already on the rise without 5G’s influence, we’ve already seen much wider adoption of IoT devices to support data exchange between patients, physicians, and machines. Expect that trend to only continue with the onset of 5G healthcare facilities.

Preparing for this increase in sensors and connected devices is likely going to take the shape of bolstered cybersecurity and data protection. This makes sense if you consider the fact that every internet connected device, including wearables given to patients, are another entry point for a cybercriminal looking to get into your facility’s network. 

Consider implementing solutions such as single sign on authentication or medical grade tablets and computers outfitted with RFID authentication. The more you can authenticate the identity of people attempting to access important patient data, the better.  

Naturally, there are a few other things to keep in mind when considering an industry-wide shift to a new generation of internet such as the inherent safety of 5G in hospitals. Be sure to study up on 5G healthcare and its prospective pros and cons so your facility is better prepared once it hits the mainstream. 

5G Healthcare Promises All-Encompassing Improvements

5G healthcare promises more than quicker care and faster internet, it stands to deliver improved care across the board. We’ve seen a grand-scale shift towards a more value-based healthcare infrastructure, one that emphasizes patient outcomes over the number of procedures administered. Decreased latency and improved connectivity the likes of which are promised by 5G are only one instance of a grander push towards that value-based care. 

For more information on how your facility can prepare for 5G healthcare and value-based care as a whole, speak to a professional from the Cybernet team today.