IoT applications in the health care industry are already helping create better access and outcomes for patients and exposing new opportunities for providers. Cost-of-entry for diagnostic machines like MRIs are significantly reduced with pay-per-use models like those provided by Philips and GE, which also increases access for patients by putting more machines in more places. The Internet of Medicine (IoM) has also enabled virtual office visits, subscription-based health care, and internet-enabled wearable devices that can detect acute illnesses faster. According to a June 2015 study from McKinsey & Company, the economic effect from cloud-connected health technology could reach $1.1 trillion a year in the next 10 years, and it helped reduce claims costs by $250 billion in 2015.
The advent of 5G will accelerate the proliferation of the IoT, opening up new possibilities in the IoM like robotic surgery and more advanced lifesaving wearables. This article from Wireless Magazine takes an intriguing look at the potential for 5G to help drive innovation in IoM.
5G and the Internet of Medicine
5G promises to bring a wealth of new features especially in the area of mission-critical Internet of Things applications. Healthcare is one sector looking to capitalize on this opportunity. For example, Ericsson and King’s College London are collaborating to develop remote robotic surgery using 5G technology.
The collaboration sprang from a chance meeting between John Cunliffe, formerly of Ericsson, and Peter Marshall, Head of Network Product Solutions in Ericsson and Professor Mischa Dohler, Director of the Centre for Telecommunications Research in the Department of Informatics at King’s College London, whose research interests include 5G and the Internet of Things.
‘We agreed 5G would bring a lot of new opportunities so we thought; what can we do together?’ recalls Marshall. ‘King’s has a lot of expertise in tactile research, so we wondered whether we could add a remote sense of touch, and if so, what value would that provide for healthcare, remote response, and emergency situations.’
The current level of robotic surgery is represented by products like the da Vinci Surgical System. It enables surgeons to perform operations by translating the surgeon’s hand movements into smaller, precise movements of tiny instruments inside the patient’s body. The instruments bend and rotate far more than a human hand is capable of doing.
Dr Toktam Mahmoodi, Lecturer in Telecommunications at King’s College London, explains that from a purely medical point of view there are two areas where 5G can advance this level of robotic surgery.
‘The first came out from our discussions with the doctors who told us they wanted to have the full set of human senses. In particular, they wanted to get back their sense of touch in robotic surgery, so as to improve precision further. They also wanted to have touch, movement, and vision in a synchronized way that is not possible at the moment, because of the tight latency requirements,’ she says.
‘The second aspect 5G can provide is a sense of geographic distance,’ continues Mahmoodi. ‘At the moment the doctor has to be in the operating theater even when using robotic surgery. 5G now brings the possibility of carrying out operations remotely. These are the two main lines of development we think 5G will bring.’
Marshall adds: ‘The da Vinci robot provides the most advanced video for surgeons. They can see and then act according to what they see by moving the robotic arm, but they don’t “feel” if they hit a bone. So, this is what we are trying to enable.’
Other 5G healthcare use cases
When it comes to other area areas of healthcare which might benefit from 5G technology, Mahmoodi points to the rehabilitation of patients. ‘We have an aging society. There were a record number of stroke patients in the UK in 2015, so that means a lot of people who need care. The trouble is keeping them in the hospital is too expensive, but there is not enough care available to look after them at home.
‘We think advanced wearable devices are key here,’ she says. ‘This is not sci-fi anymore; there are small companies who are making these kinds of products. A wearable device connected to a 5G network that would allow people to roam around and live and work normally.
‘But you would also need perfect coverage to maintain the connectivity, so you can move and roam around,’ she adds. ‘This is not possible with 4G and you would also need a highly responsive network, which again you cannot get with 4G.’
Read the full article at Wireless-mag.com