5G: what are the possibilities for medicine?

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the critical need for new approaches to the provision of remote healthcare and to ensure health services are responsive and adaptable. Being faster and more reliable, 5G will enable significant progress in telemedicine and thus improve access to healthcare for the greatest number of people.

Facilitating teleconsultations

5G provides a better connectivity standard than previous generations of mobile networks, which will enhance remote consultations thanks to the higher quality of video feeds and the high speed at which physicians will be able to retrieve information from connected devices—such as blood pressure, detailed photographs, weight, etc.

Moreover, the capacity to exchange high-definition content quickly and securely (e.g., from scanners, MRIs, etc.) will further support teleconsultation and multidisciplinary consults between institutions.

Finally, 5G will make it possible to speed up diagnosis and patient care from the ambulance itself. Indeed, first responders will be able to transmit images and initial medical examinations to hospital staff in real time.

Remote medicine is advancing, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 crisis, which has significantly increased the use of teleconsultation. In France, 11% of doctor appointments took place remotely, compared to less than 1% before the crisis. This represents approximately one million teleconsultations covered by the French National Health Insurance Fund per week, compared to 75,000 in 2019.

Contributing to the development of remote surgery

With data or results that will ensure better image quality and more fluidity, 5G will enable surgeons with connected automated arms to operate on patients remotely around the world. The first operation of this kind, during which 3,000 km separated the surgeon from the patient, took place in China in April 2019. The patient, who had Parkinson's disease, had to have a neurostimulator implanted. The three-hour operation was a success, demonstrating the applications of 5G in surgery.

Improving patient follow-up

Patients returning from the hospital will benefit from closer follow-up at home, as 5G will facilitate data transmission from connected devices in the homes of patients, the elderly or sufferers of chronic diseases. Such devices may include small glucose monitors, wireless blood pressure sensors or connected scales. The data collected will be sent directly to doctors, who can remotely adjust treatments, give advice or ask patients to make new appointments.

For the elderly, connected devices linked to remote monitoring centers will generate and process real-time alerts to detect possible falls.

Thus, by improving connection speed, network reliability and inter-device connectivity, 5G will support the development of the various aspects of telemedicine and facilitate its use by healthcare professionals and patients.