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Why 5G Is Critical for the Next Generation of Healthcare Technology

Jonathan Fritz, JD

Chief Innovation Officer, College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME)

There is no shortage of buzz around 5G, the fifth generation in wireless networks, particularly in the consumer market. Things like the ability to download high-quality video files to a smartphone in seconds have captured consumers’ imagination.

Less sexy, but arguably more impactful, are the applications for 5G in the healthcare sector. 

Unlike previous generations, 5G looks like a viable addition for healthcare organizations that today rely on wi-fi networks to transmit mobile data. As anyone using a wireless internet connection knows, high demand network slows access and functionality. That might be annoying for a consumer, but it can be catastrophic for hospitals and health systems, where minutes, and sometimes even seconds, can make the difference between life and death. 

To ensure consistency and reliability, healthcare organizations build in extra capacity, a costly solution in an environment that is getting increasingly digital and interconnected. 

The 5G solution

The 5G spectrum allows users to transmit large packets of data – high throughput – with less lag time in signal transmission – low latency – yielding high reliability. 5G enables network slicing, the partitioning of a single physical network into multiple virtual networks, which will be extremely valuable for telemedicine, virtual surgery, and other critical clinical uses. 

A healthcare organization with a private 5G network will be able to better manage the peaks and valleys of demand, and no longer be constrained by capacity limitations. This could open the doors to innovative approaches that connect multiple data sources, allowing hospitals to provide better care to patients, thereby managing the increased proliferation of Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) devices. 

5G’s speed and low latency also have the potential to revolutionize telehealth by making remote care a seamless experience for clinicians and patients. 

The cutting edge

In reality, 5G in healthcare is on the cutting edge of technology in the United States. Effective network management, through the utilization of multiple wireless technologies including 5G, will allow hospitals to transform digitally and increase the adoption of innovation. 

To that end, some 5G carriers are collaborating with early adopters in healthcare to identify use cases in hospitals, across medical campuses, and remotely to demonstrate where 5G will be an asset. How quickly patients benefit from 5G and all of the medical innovations it can support ultimately may depend on these partnerships.  

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