A 5G revolution is imminent and is going to give an explosive boost to the digital transformation of healthcare. The fifth generation of wireless technology has the capacity to carry a massive number of connections at mind-blowing speed, which will impact mankind on many levels — healthcare is only one of the sectors to experience significant disruption.

5G impact on healthcare

In the US, a small number of 5G networks have already launched, but these will not reach most areas until 2020. Estimates say that by 2023, over 30% of North American mobile connections will be on a 5G network. In the UK, several service providers will be launching commercially available 5G services in 2019 and they are currently conducting various trials around the country.

5G networks will provide near-instantaneous data transfer speeds, which will make a massive impact on all connected devices in healthcare. As telehealth services require a lot of bandwidth, wearable technology and remote patient monitoring will be revolutionised. Huge data files of medical imagery could be transported quickly and reliably, leading to improved quality of care. With networks that can deliver the high speed that is required for high-quality videos, telemedicine will have the capacity to provide care in locations where it couldn’t before.

Artificial intelligence (AI) that is powered by big data will reach the next level, making it easier and faster to analyse real-time patient data. These advances will not only help to add value in terms of patient care, but will also help in identifying promising drug targets, speeding up drug development, and ultimately cutting the cost of medications.

Augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) are healthcare disruptors that will be highly impacted by 5G. Remotely controlled surgery will be a step closer to using wireless technology due to superior image quality and low latency, or “lagginess.” Earlier this year, a surgeon in China performed the world’s first remote operation on an animal using 5G surgery, where he controlled a robotic arm in a remote location 30 miles away. Low latency periods and increased image quality and definition will allow doctors to make vital decisions in a short time and with the most accurate information available.

Robotics has immense potential in healthcare; however, surgical robots require high computational power to process imagery from cameras and movement. In the emerging area of cloud robotics, where the sum of all knowledge gained by a robot connected to a cloud platform can be passed on to every other robot on the same platform, the speed of the exchange of the information is crucial. 5G technology will form the base for the new generation of robots that will be able to function wirelessly and exploit the enormous data stored on the cloud.

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There is a myriad of innovations that will be boosted by the introduction of 5G; the possibilities are boundless. The whole range of healthcare disruptive technologies, including AI, big data, IoT, remote monitoring, and robotics, will be all propelled to the next level upon 5G adoption.