For 5G Health Care Possibilities, the Sky’s the Limit

From robot-assisted surgery to 3D printed skin, the medical field is constantly seeking ways to use technology to provide better health services. With innovation comes an increasing need for fast and reliable connectivity to ensure that those technologies work properly. 5G satisfies that need and creates new possibilities for the healthcare industry.

Verizon recently announced that it will be launching 5G networks in Sacramento by the end of the year and experts predict widespread availability of 5G by 2020. More reliable and ten times faster than 4G, 5G is the newest generation of wireless technology that enables more devices to access the internet wirelessly by utilizing more of the radio spectrum. Many healthcare start-ups are looking into ways 5G can enable providers, first responders, and even civilians to provide medical aid faster, more efficiently and safely.

The most immediate benefit of 5G will be the expansion of the remote treatment of patients through virtual services known as telemedicine. 5G will help provide easy and reliable access through improved antennas that transmit and receive data more reliably, allowing patients in rural areas to receive medical consultations and advice from specialists without traveling long distances.

5G will improve telehealth efforts that focus on senior care. Startups have created wearable sensors for seniors that will gather data and alert medical professionals when an individual needs care. While sensors can be used with 4G, they are limited because 4G networks cannot support the number necessary to provide adequate and useful health information. 5G will revolutionize their use, enabling the elderly to live comfortably at home without the risk of being unable to receive help when injured or ill.

Another way 5G can improve the healthcare industry is through improving emergency services. The high speed and low latency (response time) of 5G could allow first responders to access high definition images of an emergency event, like a car crash, and make assessments of patient health before arriving.  In high-risk moments where every second matters, 5G could quite literally be the difference between life and death. Groups such as Cloud 911 are exploring the possibility of using 5G to connect first responders with psychiatrists and other specialists in order to provide proper care for those in a mental health crisis on location, rather than having to take patients to the hospital or jail before providing treatment.

5G can also provide possible solutions to the growing opioid crisis. Multiple startups are looking into the possibility of using drones to deliver lifesaving medications to patients, including delivering the opioid overdose reversal medicine Naloxone to those suffering from an overdose. While drones can operate without 5G, this application would not be possible with 4G due to the need for reliability and speed. 5G would ensure effectiveness and minimize risks.

Improvements to telemedicine, emergency response, and drones are only a few examples of how 5G can revolutionize health care. As the widespread availability of 5G draws near, state legislators should work to update and revise regulations to reflect changing technology. Currently, many installation regulations are based on cell towers, rather than the small unobtrusive antennas used in 5G. Changing regulations will enable service providers to implement 5G on a more widespread basis. Start-ups and other companies stand ready to explore all of the options these enhanced networks can provide to the healthcare industry. When it comes to 5G innovation, the possibilities are truly endless.

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