The recent speculation over whether the U.S. federal government might build a 5G network brings up an intriguing question: Does telemedicine need 5G networks? At first glance, the answer may appear to be a resounding “Yes” because most telemedicine systems require high-bandwidth networks in order to function reliably. However, a closer look at the current market suggests that a more cautious approach may be warranted. When it comes to telemedicine, 5G may not be a panacea after all—at least not today.
As compared to current 4G networks, the as-yet unbuilt 5G networks are expected to deliver roughly 10 times the speed, carry far more data, and support over 1,000 more devices per meter; thus, users will enjoy faster and more directional data with minimized delays and less interference with/from other wireless signals. These anticipated differences are the result of using extremely high frequencies in the range of 30 GHz to 300 GHz. 4G networks use frequencies less than 6 GHz.
With the promise of ultra-fast data and no delays, 5G may look like an ideal solution to the telemedicine–bandwidth conundrum. However, even if 5G was in existence today, the healthcare industry lacks the applications and devices to take advantage of a 5G connection. The technology simply isn’t ready.
In the future, the massive bandwidth provided by 5G will transmit super-high-quality images and videos, as well as real-time live telemedicine encounters with virtually no latency or jitter. This capability will allow remote patient evaluations to bring providers into patients’ homes and workplaces for both emergency care and routine care, and emergency services will use mHealth to consult specialists to assess patient conditions, treat them as needed, and determine whether a trip to the hospital is necessary—saving time, money, and effort for patients, their families, and providers.
Unfortunately, regardless of whether the 5G network is ready, the healthcare industry is far from prepared. Payers need to recognize virtual encounters as being as legitimate as in-person office visits. Remote patient evaluations need to be more widely accepted as a standard of care. Consumer-friendly remote monitoring devices need to be developed and embraced in the marketplace, and other healthcare devices, cameras, and applications need to be updated to handle the super-high-quality data enabled by 5G networks.
All of these changes take time and will ultimately add value to our healthcare delivery system. 5G is not predicted to be released until 2020, but in the meantime, we don’t have to be limited in our telemedicine options or standards. With a robust telemedicine platform that can perform admirably even in low-bandwidth environments, we don’t have to wait for 5G to enjoy real-time high-definition virtual care. With a system like swyMed, the “future” can become our “now.”
To read more, visit Chilmark Research here.