What is 5G? It’s the latest — specifically, the fifth-generation — cellular network technology. On a 5G network, you can load a webpage or download a file between 10 and 100 times faster than on 4G. That fact alone may have you considering the ways it will transform your business. Imagine how it will transform health care delivery!
Most major smartphone developers are currently releasing 5G devices, while 5G itself will likely be widely available in 2020. It’s worth noting that 5G isn’t recreating the network; instead, it builds on the existing 4G networks.
Among other things, 5G promises to reduce network latency. Network latency refers to the time required for a packet of data to complete a round trip between two points. Expect 5G to dramatically improve the bandwidth, capacity and reliability of cellular broadband.
Before diving into the impact on health care, let’s look at a few examples in three other industries.
Retail. Hundreds of millions of people made purchases on their phones in 2018, and that number is only expected to increase in 2019. Now imagine shopping with connections at least 10 times faster. These speeds could also accommodate new retail experiences, such as virtual dressing rooms.
Financial institutions. Wearable devices that share biometric data with financial services could instantly authenticate a person’s identity.
Manufacturing. With 5G, manufacturers may be able to build or enhance smart factories that leverage automation, artificial intelligence, the internet of things and other innovations to streamline production. Robots could be controlled, monitored and reconfigured remotely over the 5G mobile network.
The potential changes to health care are just as impressive. Here are some of the ways that 5G could transform modern health care.
Telemedicine and Access
Greater availability of low-latency connectivity in rural areas would revolutionize treatment for those who live in remote small towns and rural communities. Telemedicine, for example, requires high-quality video in real time. With 5G, health systems could enable mobile networks to handle virtual visits. It also means a future of faster and more reliable network connections for a wider geographical area than 4G can provide.
This improves access to care, especially for patients with needs that require a specialist, who may be hundreds of miles away. The 5G network also aims to enable more sophisticated remote patient monitoring, which can save tens of thousands of dollars in hospital stays. All of this makes it possible for doctors to treat patients sooner and more effectively without dangerous delays or costly travel.
Ideally, wearables and other connected devices can monitor a person’s activity over time to collect data like vital signs and securely send it to that patient’s provider team. Access to this information could transform the annual physical, allowing doctors to have an informed conversation about health data collected over the past year — not just during the physical itself. By drawing from smarter streams of data, providers and patients can watch trends, detect changes and identify problems early. 5G enables all this data to be processed more efficiently, allowing for sophisticated predictive analytics.
Faster Transmission, Better Collaboration
MRIs and other image files are generally quite large. When transmitting those files takes a long time — an example of high latency — the patient and provider must wait before deciding on treatment. Adding a high-speed 5G network may help transfer these huge files faster and more reliably, which means doctors can make treatment decisions more quickly.
This makes collaboration easier, as well. Often, more than one doctor handles a person’s care. As it becomes easier to send images and other files, all of a patient’s providers can stay on the same page, reducing redundant tests and procedures. This streamlined communication extends to the entire care team, whether staff members want to collaborate more efficiently within a hospital, across a health system or with colleagues around the world. Through innovations like facilitating data collection and analysis, information transmission and more informed collaboration, 5G will support the move to value in health care.
Information and Value
All this information — not just data, but information — paves the way for the shift to value-based care. Because 5G improves speed, efficiency and collaboration across providers, as well as across the patient’s continuum of care, clinicians can provide the right care at the right time to keep patients healthy. And that’s the essence of value-based care. So, what is 5G? It’s a crucial tool for keeping your employees healthy while saving you money.