How 5G can transform telemedicine to tackle today’s toughest challenges

Healthcare continues to be at the cusp of innovation, using new technologies to improve care and push the boundaries of what’s possible. The welfare of both healthcare professionals and patients is directly tied to the industry’s ability to make advances in innovative care wherever possible, and no resource should go untapped.

Now more than ever, connectivity is emerging as a vital technology for the industry to provide equitable care to those who depend on it. Patients are now video chatting with doctors from their homes, and health professionals are leaving the clipboards behind for more efficient digital data management systems. But this is just the beginning of a larger transformation.

With 5G, telemedicine and the industry at large can benefit from superior, security-rich connectivity built to address current challenges and unlock new possibilities. Our goal at Qualcomm is to raise the bar for wireless connectivity and support 5G as a platform for innovation. To meet the needs of society and help industries innovate for the future, we’re envisioning a transformative step forward that vastly improves the lives of both health professionals and patients in the next generation of healthcare.

Better care for who matters most: the patient

Expanding 5G for healthcare is more than improved data transfer, security, broadband access, and advancements in technology. These benefits add up to an overall improved quality of care for telemedicine providers, and most importantly, patients. The increased bandwidth and low latency of 5G connectivity allows for higher resolution video and images, increasing the quality and value of virtual interaction. This not only reduces the need to come into a medical office when unnecessary or unsafe, but can greatly benefit remote patients who may not have easy access to a medical facility or hospital. New technology for patient care is only as good as a patient’s ability to access it, and that accessibility hinges on the connectivity that 5G provides.

Supporting data management and security

Data management is becoming increasingly pivotal in healthcare, with everyone from doctors and nurses to lab technicians and EMTs sharing large amounts of information with each other. The strength of the network they’re on directly affects their ability to share data efficiently, which can, in turn, affect patient care and critical health decisions.

Think about how frustrated you get waiting for a YouTube video to load. Now imagine that same frustration, but you’re a doctor, and the file you’re waiting for contains life-saving information. We at Qualcomm believe no scenario should ever come to that, when seconds make a difference. That’s why we’ve spent decades investing and developing technologies that have led to 5G, which could make those situations a challenge of the past. 5G is designed to enable broadband that is both significantly faster and more reliable than 4G, making it optimal for scenarios where data transfer has to happen as quickly as possible. In an industry where every second counts, a stable and fast connection can be the difference in an ambulance being able to swiftly transfer an emergency patient’s data to a doctor, a doctor to performing a check-in on a remote patient’s vitals with near-real time review, or parents viewing an ultrasound from different time zones.

Healthcare data not only tends to be large in size, but also contains highly sensitive and personal patient information. 5G directly supports enhanced security and privacy in telemedicine by building on the proven, solid security foundation of 4G LTE. It also significantly reduces latency, allowing for the improved use of applications such as edge cloud technology and AI to execute faster data analysis locally.

Facilitating medical innovation

Beyond enhancing today’s medical processes, 5G can support the development of new technologies for telemedicine and the entire healthcare industry. Among the most cutting-edge innovations are XR-powered tools, which could be used for medical training, teaching, or virtual therapy. For example, through the use of haptic feedback gloves with millisecond response times, healthcare industry professionals could receive immersive training and visualization for highly complex procedures. Detailed VR technology could even help doctors explain diagnoses to their patients.

Additionally, AI-enhanced apps and wearables could use 5G to apply machine learning to health-related data analysis in multiple scenarios, from medical diagnosis to emergency medical attention. IoT medical devices and AI-enabled data analysis could also streamline health monitoring for both patients and doctors — potentially creating a completely connected hospital. All of these tools are first in class for healthcare innovation, and they can take advantage of the high-speed, stable bandwidth that 5G can facilitate.

These aspirations are not abstract — in fact, they are highly achievable when technology and industry leaders work together. The healthcare industry and the people who rely on it should be able to benefit from the advances that next-generation technology can easily provide. At a time when the industry needs to be operating at its peak potential, 5G can unlock new solutions that facilitate the next leap forward in better patient care, data management, and security. That’s why we at Qualcomm believe in the expansion of 5G and working collaboratively to enable superior, security-rich connections between doctors and patients, and transforming the healthcare industry for the benefit of all.

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