Evolving Technologies & Future of Telemedicine (Telehealth)
Doctor-Patient interaction has been face to face in Medical offices, hospitals, homes and health care facilities since the dawn of time. However with technological advancement & faster networks (4G LTE & 5G) are changing the dynamics of healthcare & now we are at a turning point for telemedicine (also known as telehealth).
Technologies involved in telemedicine has been evolving gradually, most evolutionary being the rise of wearable devices to monitor the vital signs of patients. In the wake of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) health organizations are using Telehealth technology to serve the patients ensuring the safety of medical staff & patients. This change has prompted an abrupt growth in telemedicine market worldwide.
Furthermore, todays 4G LTE and evolving 5G wireless technologies is fueling the growth of telehealth and other healthcare functions as never before. Some of the contributing technology factors include widespread cellular network availability, ease and speed of deployment and vastly improved bandwidth.
5G new radio (NR) technology is a major improvement over the current 4G LTE technology. Using millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum, 5G can deliver a theoretical download speed of 20 gigabits per second compared with less than two gigabits per second for LTE. This 10x performance improvement means more and better information in near real-time.
Because of its super speed and robustness, 5G will accelerate telehealth’s development. But there is more. 5G can also support massive Internet of Things (IoT) and smart city infrastructure. As a result, it will propel the growth of home healthcare, remote patient monitoring, remote and robotic surgery assistance, and smart city infrastructure.
As technology progresses from 4G LTE to 5G, it is expected that a single 5G connection will be sufficient for communication. Therefore, more and more home healthcare solutions like this would be able to connect using 5G alone rather than using two carriers, reducing cost and complexity.
Future of Telemedicine
Remote Patient Monitoring
Innovation in Smart watches & Fitbit bands has enabled them to support in monitoring the vitals of an individual.
Recently a new smart watches from Apple & Fitbit, Series 6 & Sense respectively, can monitor blood oxygen, ECG, skin temperature, and stress with a Wi-Fi connection.
The major application of such devices being that following the discharge, hospitals will use wireless technology to remotely monitor patients’ health conditions. In the future, 5G will provide robust, real-time connection in the near future. More patients will be able to receive remote monitoring over a reliable connection.
Better Emergency Support in a 5G Smart City
During the pandemic, many hospitals became overwhelmed due to Covid-19. In some cases, hospitals had to turn away patients for lack of ICU space. Being unable to admit a patient to an ICU promptly endangers patients and disrupts normal hospital routines.
Some cities have started to experiment with smart cities technologies to support better healthcare. In a smart city, after an ambulance picks up a patient who needs urgent care, a nearby hospital would be informed automatically about the patient’s condition and the estimated arrival time.
Furthermore, in a smart city the ambulance is guided through traffic using Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) and Advanced Vehicle Location (AVL). Smart traffic lights – today controlled with 4G LTE adaptive traffic control and ultimately controlled by 5G – will automatically be synchronized to allow the ambulance to go through while stopping all other traffic, saving time and increasing safety.
5G-Enabled Remote Surgery Support
With medical advances, more and more surgeries are being performed with dependency on the technology, such as a small surgical microscope can be inserted inside the body, and, using a high definition 4K display such as that of the Olympus Visera, clearly reveal the details of the area to be operated on.
A 5G connection will mean that the same information viewed by the surgical team can be livestreamed in real-time to the supporting expert team, and in the future in even higher 8K resolution. This real-time connection will enable the experts to advise the team as the surgery takes place.
The Future of 5G and Medical Technology
We are only seeing a glimpse of what 5G will be able to do for telehealth and healthcare. It will improve home healthcare and remote patient monitoring and surgeries. In smart cities 5G will advance the way emergencies are handled. Critical information, available in near real time, will let teams react much more quickly to deliver better care.
Looking ahead, it is expected that many of these decisions and functions can be performed with AI. Machine learning, AI and robotics will play a greater role in procedures to improve precision. And caregivers and emergency teams will have more time and be better prepared to deal with unexpected situations caused by sickness or accidents as well as natural disasters.