During COVID-19 lockdowns across the world we saw many new examples of mobile technology used within the health sector, including innumerable amounts of people using telehealth for the first time.
With 5G networks being switched on across the country, the connectivity of 5G is set to continue to transform the healthcare system and how we manage our health in the wake of the pandemic. The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) has identified five ways 5G will drive this digital transformation in health.
5G's low latency and reliability will allow healthcare providers to offer real-time remote patient monitoring, revolutionising patient-centered healthcare.
Through 5G-enabled medical devices and wearables, data can be gathered from patients to assess treatments to improve care and alert doctors of early warning signs to allow for prompt proactive intervention. This new connectivity could drastically improve the quality of life for Australians, especially the elderly and people living with ongoing medical conditions, as it will give doctors and nurses the option to monitor a patient in the comfort of their home.
One organisation that has taken strides in remote monitoring is the CSIRO, which is trailing a Smarter Safer Homes system, a sensor-based in-home monitoring system to service the aged care and supported living sectors. With 5G, systems like this will start to become more readily available, reliable, and easier to setup through connection to wide area 5G mobile networks.
With 5G networks, remote robotic surgery will become an option for Australians, removing the obstacle of distance and giving patients access to specialist treatment, no matter where they are located.
Connected through Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), 5G powered robots and devices will deliver lifesaving surgery not possible through the 4G network. One example is the Ingham Institute for Applied Medical Research in Liverpool, NSW, which is currently assessing a remote-controlled robot that can remove blood clots in stroke patients using 5G connectivity, supported by Optus. For patients living in rural and regional areas, this technology could be critical to their survival as it's faster and more effective than current procedures.
Since the pandemic, there has been an increased interest in personal health monitoring. This will only grow with the 5G roll out, with wearables expected to reach one billion by 2022.
While wearable health devices and smart home health gadgets aren't new, through the fast, reliable, and high capacity 5G network, you will be able to connect more devices to monitor and manage your physical and mental wellbeing, providing a more holistic view of your health. You could monitor your diet and various disease markers through connected toilets, track and improve your sleep through a smart bed, and even manage medication and nutritional supplements via smart medicine cabinets.
The ultra-fast speeds and ultra-low latency of 5G mobile connection will change how we respond to emergencies, especially how medical supplies and assistance will be provided.
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or 'drones' have been integral for many countries in their response to the pandemic, and through 5G, using them for medical deliveries will become more tangible in Australia. Swoop Aero is trialling aeromedical deliveries in Australia including delivering pathology samples and medical supplies, such as COVID-19 vaccines, to hospitals while providing real-time monitoring and notifications using the 5G network. 5G connected ambulances could also become a real possibility in Australia. In collaboration between Ericsson, University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, and King's College London, 5G connected ambulances that enable clinicians to remotely guide paramedics through procedures and make diagnoses using a VR headset and cameras are already being trialled.
AI as a tool for health diagnosis and precision medical treatment is being dramatically improved by 5G. AI, powered by 5G, will help analyse medical imaging and data faster to make diagnoses or show clinicians where to look, and provide a course of treatment tailored to patients, optimising hospitals, and patient care.
The Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine of USC in the US is focused on discovering new ways to diagnose and treat cancer using AI algorithms trained to recognise areas of concern and eventually even recommend a course of treatment. AI is also being heavily invested in Australia, with the federal government announcing last year it will provide $19 million over three years for artificial intelligence-based medical research projects designed to prevent, diagnose, and treat a range of health conditions. These projects have the potential to lead to significant health benefits for Australians.
Overall, we can expect 5G will improve the health industry substantially in Australia. 5G will offer better mobility and help the health sector become more productive and efficient, leading the country into a new age of medicine and wellbeing.
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