Increasingly we are seeing real-world examples of how 5G technology can transform the health system. Imagine a future where our health system is digitally transformed  to provide New Zealanders with better health outcomes enabling things like remote patient monitoring and care.

For example we may see improved diagnostics, robotic surgery, gamification in health, wearables such as smart pacemakers, health and wellbeing apps, and augmented reality or virtual reality for health student education.

The health industry will undergo significant digital transformation enabled by a 5G rapidly changing world. Here are a few examples of how 5G can make a big difference to deliver improved health outcomes including increased patient satisfaction, improved patient safety, increased clinician satisfaction and cost effectiveness.

Saving lives with autonomous medical drones

Autonomous medical drones may provide Emergency Service dispatchers with the ability to assist rescue teams and bystanders. Based on live video feed, they could deploy emergency supplies or defibrillators, knowing exactly what is needed in real-time.

The use of ultra-reliable autonomous drones across the health system has the potential to save lives. Harnessing the ultra-high speeds and low latency of 5G, aided by network slicing and 5G radio, medical drones can have shorter response times, real-time video feeds and precise control in changing conditions.

Providing surgical expertise with remote robotic surgery

Remote robotic surgery has the ability to give New Zealanders access to the best surgical expertise closer to home. Surgery can be a life-or-death situation and it's critical that communication must be able to exchange data and respond in real-time.

5G’s low latency and ultra-reliability, increased peak data rates, and bandwidth provides this capability. Two different forms of robotic surgery are currently being developed for the 5G era.

The first is the natural extension of surgery with the assistance of video. This could allow surgeons to remotely operate on patients via surgical robot technology anywhere in the world with lower latency than is currently possible with 4G. Emergency surgery could take place in rural New Zealand with specialist surgeons located in New Zealand’s larger cities.

A haptic glove worn by a surgeon connecting to a surgical robot, could allow the glove to detect tissues of different densities. The haptic feedback would allow the surgeon to apply the right level of pressure to complete a successful operation. The glove could also be used to support a paramedic in an ambulance allowing more advanced diagnostics.

Improving clinical decision making with 5G enabled ambulances

Clinical decision making at the point of care is critical to ensuring New Zealanders receive the right care and the right time in the right place.

5G enabled ambulances will play a bigger role in providing connected care for patients to assist with timely clinical decision making. Connecting through a high-speed, low latency network, using real-time video feeds, clinicians  will have the opportunity to assess patients at the scene or in transit. They can then quickly transmit data and accurately assist paramedics with diagnosis and treatment decisions.

Managing chronic illness from home with remote patient monitoring

Remote patient monitoring (RPM) gives people with chronic illnesses the peace of mind they need, knowing they can stay in touch with healthcare providers from the comfort of their own home.

RPM solutions aren’t new, IoT devices and wearables can already monitor patients and gather data that can be used to improve personalized and preventive care. However, current network speeds and unstable connections mean multidisciplinary health team may not be able to get the real-time data they need to respond quickly.

With 5G, the remote patient monitoring system can take advantage of the key features of this technology. With lower latency and higher capacity, healthcare providers can offer RPM for more patients, while remaining confident that they will receive the data in real-time.

Using 5G connectivity introduces many other possibilities to integrate RPM with AI, AR and VR, potentially helping clinician manage patients proactively, predict changes in condition and intervene virtually when needed.