How 5g Technology Will Impact Future Developments In Emergency Healthcare And Ambulance Services

The healthcare sector is one of the industries that will benefit the most from the fifth-generation (5G) networks. In the quest to improve the healthcare sector by providing better healthcare services to the public, 5G networks will enable healthcare professionals to solve many of the limitations they currently face in the healthcare field.

  1. 5G Network will help Improve Patient Management

One of the identified challenges experienced in the healthcare sector is patient mismanagement (the inability of medical professionals to attend to patients on time). Often, when there are many patients in a hospital with fewer specialists attending to them, it results in greater strain on healthcare professionals’ time, increased healthcare spending, and longer waiting times for patients who require treatment. The need for a medical professional to attend to several patients who require emergency treatment often leads to less adequate treatment of some patients and in most cases, patients are made to wait for long to see a doctor, which delays treatment and even worsens the condition of a patient.

In the aim to tackle this problem, many professionals within the healthcare industry are adopting remote patient monitoring, which will enable medical professionals to attend to patients at any place without the need to have a face-to-face appointment with them. That will enable medical professionals to monitor patients, as well as collect and analyze patients’ data through sensors, wearables, and e-health devices. This approach will reduce the number of patients coming to hospitals for appointments, including cost. It will also give medical professionals more time to attend to patients that require more emergency attention thus, improving efficiency in healthcare services.

A much better network is required to enable these remote monitoring devices to function efficiently. 5G will enable these medical devices to collect and transfer patients’ data from anywhere and at any time, without interruption, thereby enabling medical professionals to attend to more patients within a short time.

  1. Virtual consultations using high definition (HD) video

Another challenge facing the healthcare sector is the lack of access to a medical facility (hospital) by some patients. It is mostly experienced by patients who live in rural areas where healthcare and transport infrastructure is limited. A lot of patients that require treatment live miles away from the necessary facilities, making traveling to these places very difficult, time-consuming, and costly for the individual, therefore limited them from receiving medical attention when needed, which often leads to increased emergency treatments and higher mortality rates.

A potential solution to this challenge being considered by many healthcare professionals is Visual consultations via HD video. Two-way HD video will enable patients and healthcare professionals to conduct appointments over the air, initial screening assessments, routine check-ups (which do not require physical procedures), therapy/rehabilitation sessions, and increasingly visual diagnoses (e.g. identifying dermatological conditions and symptoms), thereby enabling patients affected by location, distance, or barrier, to receive the needed medical attention on time.

To see the benefits of this service, a patient and a healthcare professional should be able to connect from anywhere and at any time, through a mobile device (Smartphone) that they would readily carry, without any interruption in the connection. This visual consultation will depend on some factors to work efficiently, like connectivity, latency, bandwidth, and speed.

4G does not have the sufficient consistency of performance in the real world to stream and send HD video without lag, jitter, or degradation of video quality, meaning the service would not be good enough to adopt this service successfully.

5G will see that visual consultation via air is possible and efficient, by offering much constant connectivity (anytime and anywhere, even when there is data traffic), as well as high–quality video, at an increased speed.

Therefore, that will enable patients to have access to healthcare expertise at the right time, as well as improve healthcare providers’ proactiveness in diagnosing diseases early enough, managing them rightly, and preventing any complications, which would otherwise lead to more critical conditions.

  1. Improved ambulance services

The distance from an accident scene to a hospital, the time it takes paramedics to hand over the victim’s information to the medical professionals, and the response time of ambulance crews on emergency grounds, are the main challenges in ambulance services.

Aiming to tackle those challenges, some healthcare professionals suggest that connected ambulances could be an adequate solution. Connected ambulances will be equipped with smart machines and IoT devices (such as sensors, HD video cameras, wearable, and more sophisticated medical machines) that will:

  1. Enable paramedics to collect and transfer data (information) about victims/patients, such as their heart rate and medical records, back to hospital A&E departments while the patient is transported, enabling the hospital staffs to have a better understanding of the patient and to prepare for treatment beforehand, before they arrive. This will allow victims/patients to be attended to on time, as well as enable ambulance crews to get back to places they are needed.
  2. Enable specialists to connect with paramedics and remotely guide them to treat cases that may not require the patient to be brought to the hospital, thereby creating efficiencies across the emergency services. Through a 180–degree HD video camera, a specialist can watch the inside of the ambulance in real-time on a high-resolution screen from the hospital, which will enable him/her to determine the state of the patient/victim and also observe the treatment procedures administered to the patient by the paramedics.
  3. Connected ambulances will also carry ultrasound technology that would allow a doctor to perform a scan remotely right from his/her station. The ultrasound technology will connect to a joystick and a robotic glove. The interconnection between these devices will enable the specialist to guide the paramedics (who will be wearing the robotic glove) via vibrations triggered from the joystick.
  4. Furthermore, both the specialist and the paramedic can put on Visual Reality (VR) headsets enabling the specialist to see live videos and close–up images from inside the ambulance.

We know that in emergencies, every minute counts. Connected ambulances will increase efficiency in emergency services, their time to respond and resolve life-threatening situations, increasing the chance of survival of victims/patients. Furthermore, 5G will ensure faster computing and transfer of patients’ information from paramedics to hospital A&E departments, high visual camera quality, including secure and steady connectivity between the IoT devices and between specialists and paramedics, aiding preparedness and efficiency in dealing with emergencies.

Presently, the healthcare sector is adopting an e-health (digital healthcare) system that will enable patients to have full access to healthcare via the internet, as well as enable healthcare specialists to function more effectively in administering healthcare services to patients, especially in emergency cases.

While 4G and Wi-Fi have significantly advanced the hospital technology and experience, 5G will transform the sector. With latency low enough to provide up to the second, real-time information, whether delivering a live HD video link to an EMT in the field with a patient or sending images and patients data to doctors in route, 5G will allow the healthcare sector to reach new heights. With ultra-reliability and improved security, the healthcare industry can make those advancements without risk to clinical outcomes or putting patients’ private information and data at risk.

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