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What Does 5G Technology Mean to Healthcare?

Nurses Article   (576 Views 4 Replies 870 Words)
by J.Adderton J.Adderton, MSN (Member) Writer Verified

J.Adderton has 20 years experience as a MSN .

7 Followers; 44 Articles; 25,957 Visitors; 226 Posts

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Wi-Fi technology advanced the healthcare industry by improving access to health information, tracking personal health data and making wearable devices a reality. 5G is poised to make further improvements in access to care, quality of care and patient outcomes. This article discusses several ways healthcare is on the verge of change with 5G technology.

What Does 5G Technology Mean to Healthcare?

On April 12. 2019, President Trump and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman announced a plan to hold a third Fifth Generation Wireless Technology (5G) spectrum auction in the latest effort to make more mobile spectrum available in the United States.  A plan to spend $20 billion was also announced to expand broadband access to rural areas currently without it. This evolution of mobile technology will provide a much faster connection, be more responsive and allow more data to be transferred. We could experience downloads as much as 10 to 20 times faster than current 4G technology.  What does this mean to healthcare? The advent of 5G bring exciting possibilities in the ability to provide more personalized care with improved access to services.

Making Homecare A Viable Option

An increasing number of people would prefer being treated at home instead of dealing with long wait times and the high cost of hospitals.  In addition, Medicare patients over the age of 65 experience a 14.9% rehospitalization rate in the United States.  Home health services will experience a growth with 5G technology and move forward with making homecare a viable option for healthcare.  5G will offer the following improvements in home care services:

Wearable medical devices

5G technology will improve nurse and physician ability to monitor patients in real time.  This will allow emergencies or abnormalities to be reported without delay.  Research has shown patients are more engaged with their own health when using medical wearables for remote monitoring.  Wearables have also been predicted to decrease hospital costs by 16% over the next 5 years.  Imagine the impact of more efficient and effect data-generating tools.  The ability to identify the first sign of illness will allow early interventions, including consults, to be implemented- reducing complications.  Remote monitoring has been limited by slow network speeds and unreliable connections and 5G will increase consistency and confidence in the ability to monitor real-time patient data.

Expanding telemedicine

A study by Market Research Future found the telemedicine market is expected to grow at a rate of 16.5% from 2017 to 2023.  The study determined the demand increase is attributed to the need for telemedicine in rural areas and a rise in government initiatives to improved access to care in rural communities.  5G technology will support mobile telemedicine appointments, including access to specialist and better healthcare collaboration.

Quick Transmission of Large Imaging Data

Imaging machines (i.e. MRIs, PET scanners) typically use very large files that are sent to a specialist for review and interpretation.  If the network is low on bandwidth, the transmission of these files can be delayed or even not sent.  For patients being treated outside of an acute care or surgical setting (outpatient clinics), slow data transmission can further delay diagnosis and treatment. Previous imaging studies are often needed for comparison to ensure implementation of appropriate treatment plan.  5G downloads could be 10 to 20 times faster than current technology and providers would reduce wait times to see more patients in the same amount of time.

Bridging Language Barriers

It is often a challenge for a person whose first language is not English to communicate vital health information.  Informing healthcare providers of allergies and health history is essential for determining appropriate care.  Additionally, these patients may not fully understand diagnosis, medication regime or instructions for follow-up care.  Translation services for less common languages are typically centralized and not available on-site.  Video services are available for translation, but network capabilities limit this technology, especially in rural areas. 5G will improve the network speed to make video translation services more reliable and accessible.

Making Remote Medicine Possible

Emergency medicine is typically based on a “patient-to-hospital” practice.  Emergency care outcomes in critical situations, such as cardiac arrest, stroke, trauma) are dependent on prompt access to care.  5G would introduce a new set of tools to first responders for faster emergency care. For example:

  • Alerting emergency departments of EMS estimated arrival time with great accuracy

  • Sending in advance ECG, patient data and imaging that would allow the ED to be prepared with proper equipment and staff with patient arrival

  • Potential for live link to ER doctors or specialists through 4K body cameras to help assess, treat and prepare patient for transfer
  • Access in rural areas to augmented reality tools allowing EMTs or general practitioners to follow guided steps in performing critical care.

This article highlights only a few improvements 5G will bring to the access and delivery of healthcare.  With reliable and high-bandwidth networks, healthcare providers can improve quality of care and the patient experience.  Additionally, rural communities will benefit with easier access to specialist and timely diagnosis.

What other benefits, such as better protected health information, are you looking forward to experiencing with 5G technology?


Resources:

Federal Communications Commission.  (2018, September 28). The FCCs 5G fast plan.  [Press release].  

Healthcare IT News. (2018).  The journey to 5G.  Verizon.

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RN, MSN with over 20 years nursing experience in bedside nursing, hospice, management and nurse faculty. Openly writes about experience as a nurse in recovery for addiction. Visit J. Adderton's Blog for additional articles.

7 Followers; 44 Articles; 25,957 Visitors; 226 Posts

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2 Followers; 4 Articles; 1,799 Visitors; 23 Posts

Unfortunately, with these technological benefits come with significant health risks due to exposure of radiation associated with 5 G utilization. This is just one of many articles addressing this concern:

https://eluxemagazine.com/magazine/dangers-of-5g/

Plans to have a tower on every block would mean massive amounts of radiation in the environment. Aside from better communication, the need to look at the bigger picture is very important, especially for our children.
 

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J.Adderton has 20 years experience as a MSN.

7 Followers; 44 Articles; 25,957 Visitors; 226 Posts

Thank you for bringing up the issue of health hazard and sharing article.

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2 Followers; 4 Articles; 1,799 Visitors; 23 Posts

It's unfortunate that every advance has its drawbacks. Better communication is good, radiation health issues is not.
Quite a quandary for all of us!!!
Kind regards,

Georgianna

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subee has 45 years experience as a MSN, CRNA and works as a CRNA, retired.

1 Follower; 17,609 Visitors; 1,685 Posts

I'm very leery of anything Trump proposes because it can't be science based or even a practical reality.  It will further decrease the divide between internet users.

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