When you visit the doctor for your yearly check-up, would you rather:
- Sit in a waiting room reading outdated magazines while strangers cough around you?
- Virtually connect on your tablet and review your vital trends from a fitness tracking device?
If you chose A, you’re part of a shrinking minority. Consider the limitations of this annual tradition. In our fast-paced world, even having the time for a check-up is growing antiquated. And a check-up can only reflect your health at a very specific point in time.
What if your actions, vital statistic trends and other data – collected through IoT devices – could be stored in a health profile and intelligently fed to your caregiver in a secure fashion? With this degree of insight, physicals would be more than just 30-minute snapshots into your health, where you lie about exercise and alcohol consumption. Instead, they could become data-driven discussions about your life and what’s been affecting you year-over-year – all done remotely through your laptop, tablet or phone.
Smart data and smart devices
The speed, bandwidth and device connectivity promised by 5G and the cellular transformation will provide the basis for re-imagining healthcare and wellness. By collecting smarter streams of data (rather than points in time) and leveraging AI, healthcare providers – and even patients themselves – can follow trends, detect changes and identify concerns earlier and more accurately than ever before. Healthcare is not only becoming more virtualized to better connect caregivers, expertise and patients, it is also becoming more personalized in how and when care decisions are made. The more data points incorporated into a care decision, the more impactful the results can be for the patient.
Right now, the healthcare industry is at a crossroads. While there is an unprecedented amount of data available, providers are not yet able to use that data in the most relevant and meaningful way. To meet the needs of a rapidly changing world, we need an underlying network that can power the speed of connection with the breadth of data. 5G will provide that infrastructure and push smart devices and decisions from the core to the edge, creating secure, smarter data streams and enabling greater personalization.
For patients: enabling care from anywhere
Imagine how these changes could impact the at-home care of an elderly parent. IoT sensors could indicate when your parent is awake, if they are active, if they have eaten, what they have eaten and whether they have taken their medications. If your parent has a chronic condition, these connected systems will record their vital trends on a rolling basis. 5G will ensure this data capture is performed efficiently and in a cost effective way, while using the collected information to make connected devices smarter. Given the sensitivity of the data, it all must be securely transmitted and shared. Since these smart devices are deployed and maintained at the edge, rather than in a centralized hub, this data will feed back into and benefit the overall system.
5G will allow users to cut the cord and leverage devices that no longer tether them to specific places or regions. No matter where you are in the world, as you care for your elderly parent, you’ll have access to their health information – providing both peace of mind and a constant stream of insight. These benefits without boundaries also extend to the patient, providing a gateway for more connected health. Daily wellness check-ins and consults at the first sign of illness can increase the likelihood of an early diagnosis, provide faster treatment and reduce the risk of a secondary infection. 5G can deliver at-home senior care facilitation without geographical or metropolitan-based limits.
This flexibility also applies to the clinical care of your parent. If they require a specialist consult that isn’t available locally or in a timely fashion, no problem. The new physician can leverage 5G video to share trends and diagnostic information while interactively engaging with your mom or dad. This connection can even extend to critical events, like an emergency ambulance ride or during surgery. While some of these capabilities are available today, 5G makes them more ubiquitous, reliable and immediate. A smart hospital can capture data throughout your parent’s hospital journey and enable personalized clinical decisions based on trends in their health.
For providers: improving outcomes and access
Now what does 5G do for healthcare providers? At the most basic level, it helps the provider deliver better care and outcomes for their patients. Improved follow-up practices and virtual connectivity and monitoring can reduce re-admission rates for patients. If a patient needing rehabilitation is asked to perform regular exercises, they are much more likely to be compliant if a friendly nurse can check in with them over video chat… especially if that nurse can also access smart data into whether the patient has done their exercises in the first place.
Smart technology and 5G can blur the walls between the hospital and the home, better managing the care of long-term patients who require the most resources from the healthcare system. Ongoing wellness checks and virtual engagement programs can reduce the costs of caring for these individuals, particularly for rural providers. Thanks to 5G, rural hospitals can have access to virtual top shelf resources when needed and can better serve their communities. They can compete for their patients’ healthcare dollars by virtually connecting the right resources and expertise with the patient. In the era of value-based care, providers realize the greatest benefits only when their patients’ experiences improve as well.
The advent of 5G is an exciting new horizon for healthcare. It can help power personalized, smarter care capabilities and elevate connected medicine to an unprecedented level. Better healthcare means more than just cutting costs and providing improved service. At the end of the day, it is about letting patients’ voices be heard, finding new opportunities for hope and allowing individuals to live longer and more productive lives.