5G-Foundation to revolutionize healthcare

The future of healthcare is mobile and 5G provides the foundation for innovation to improve access to care and medical research and help scale these services quickly with available resources.

Healthcare is moving out of hospital premises and is on its way to patients’ homes, thanks to the adoption of mobile, and availability of reliable connectivity even at the remotest of places, providing for a highway through which experts can virtually reach those in need. With reliable and high-speed internet connectivity, digital healthcare has already matured from providing administrative interactions of appointments bookings, wellness management, to high-touch teleconsultations and is quickly becoming a preferred mode for patient-doctor interactions writes Ravinder Singh, VP & Head – Consulting, CitiusTech.

The next wave of clinical services will rely on low latency 5G services with the capability to transmit high fidelity diagnostics data like medical images, IOMT data, multimedia, thereby expanding opportunities to transform clinical services and create impact at-scale. Let us discuss some of these impact areas below:

Improve access and goal of equitable healthcare

Mobile healthcare has provided access to the remotest of populations; for example, mobile Ophthalmology care has long leveraged remote eye camps as the mode to provide access to remote areas, however services are constrained by availability of experts in-person for complex diagnostics or interventions. With 5G connectivity augmenting mobile unit, an expert can remotely access high fidelity images and even provide remote robotic surgeries to multiple mobile units deployed. Another example is remote breast cancer screening wherein teleradiology, and collaborative expert consultation can make remotely deployed mobile screening units highly effective.

Remote access to experts across the nation for rural areas will bridge the health equity gap with quality healthcare accessible to populations without the physical infrastructure boundaries.

Innovation to reduce cost of healthcare

Several long-term conditions if well-managed, can avoid unnecessary treatments. 5G connectivity devices can be deployed as wearables or home-deployed equipment to monitor patients, educate, and intervene remotely, to control any possible exacerbations that would lead to expensive hospitalization and disruption to patients’ quality of life. Consider high risk aka high-cost pregnancies with placenta malfunction that require the collaboration of a general physician and a fetal expert to provide care over the last trimesters through frequent scans. Exchanging high-fidelity diagnostics to collaborate and plan the right interventions can help reduce risk to mother and child. Several such clinical scenarios are possible with 5G as foundation for eHealth, providing a platform for innovative, low-cost services.

Improving Healthcare workforce effectiveness

Healthcare workforce required to meet demand ratios that are challenging, and traditional methods of creating healthcare workforce, cannot fill our short and medium-term specialists’ demand. With 5G, there is an opportunity to transform healthcare training. In-silico simulations, and digital twins can scale the learning for physicians, nursing staff, and paramedics using real-life like scenarios. Booming edtech partnerships to create novel methods and models can be evolved to transform the way healthcare talent is created and coached at-scale, defying geographical constraints.

Providing tools that are accessible through mobile to augment physicians with access to experts, medical knowledge bases, AI augmented tools with high fidelity datasets, will help healthcare workers effectively treat patients at point-of-care, outside of traditional hospital premises

Revolutionize devices

Medical devices innovation continues to open new healthcare frontiers in diagnosis and treatments. The next wave of innovation for devices is miniaturization and patient-operated medical devices that can be deployed at patients’ homes or smaller clinics with augmented operations. With 5G connectivity developing, the adoption of miniatured devices becomes viable commercially and clinically. With 5G rollouts, we expect to see innovation in portable devices that would augment self-management of chronic conditions or be managed by trained healthcare workers at the edge.

Medical tourism

India is increasingly becoming a destination for medical tourism. With clinical grade 5G foundation, meaningful collaborations with overseas home-based service providers can be conducted thereby reducing hospital stays and post-treatment care management. With better convenience, medical tourism will get a boost with high complexity treatments delivered collaboratively.

The future of healthcare is mobile and 5G provides the foundation for innovation to improve access to care and medical research and help scale these services quickly with available resources. With 5G we can accelerate digital healthcare and continue to make it effective, efficient, and affordable.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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