8 Ways That 5G Benefits Healthcare

5G brings many advantages to healthcare, made possible by network capabilities like Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC), and Massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC). Compared to previous cellular generations, private 5G networks are better suited for healthcare use cases that require high data rates across a wide area of coverage, have specific latency requirements, and need to support many devices.

But what are these use cases? And in what way does 5G connectivity help medical staff?

In this blog post, we take a look at eight benefits of 5G healthcare.

First, reference the chart below to put a number on the revenue expected to be generated by private 5G networks used by the healthcare industry.


Get More Free Charts

1. File Transmission

With an up to 100X download speed advantage over Long Term Evolution (LTE), 5G connectivity is a must-have for administrative tasks in the healthcare industry. Large files, such as diagnostic imaging files, and other file transfers can be completed in a matter of seconds with 5G. This relatively simplistic use case leverages eMBB features, which enhance end-user data rate and capacity.

2. Teleconsultation

Gone are the days of needing to travel to a doctor’s office for minor health issues or issues that don’t require in-person visits. A recent survey from KeyCare found that 92% of patients would be open to a telehealth visit within the next year if their healthcare provider offered the service. As demand for digital health consultations and visits increases, so will the demand for 5G—as it provides more reliable network service.

5G connectivity is an important facilitator of efficient remote/video consultation services between patients and doctors or other health professionals. With 760 million 5G handsets shipped in 2022, global markets are on pace for steady growth in remote health consultations.

3. Contact Tracing

mMTC, a feature that provisions connections to many medical devices over a specific area, is a great match for contact tracing. By using Internet of Things (IoT) trackers, 5G provides real-time traceability of infectious diseases like COVID-19 (see this blog post to learn how 5G mitigated COVID-19 infection rates).

For example, mMTC can be used to monitor a pre-defined area, such as a sports field or other training facilities, with thermal imaging cameras to monitor people’s body temperatures.

4. Robot-Assisted Services

5G is the centerpiece of robotic healthcare operations. These robotic services lessen the burden of workloads for medical staff by taking blood samples, disinfecting hospital rooms, providing improved social care for patients, delivering medication to patients, and more. As the U.S. healthcare industry will be short between 200,000 and 450,000 Registered Nurses (RNs) by 2025, medical facilities will need as much automation as possible.

This 5G healthcare use case necessitates further maturity in the device ecosystem whereby there’s integration with the newest chipsets that support Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN) and similar features.

5. Fully Remote Surgeries

While a very long-term opportunity, there is a viable future for completely remote surgeries using robots using 5G connectivity. Investors agree as healthcare robotics companies were the beneficiaries of more than US$1 billion in financial backing in 2021.

The success of the world’s first remote robotic surgery at Beijing Jishuitan Hospital in 2019 showcased the potential for 5G-enabled orthopedic surgery robots. China Telekom and Huawei were the network technology providers for the trial.

Between the high bandwidth promised by eMBB and the low latencies and high reliability guaranteed by URLLC, 5G is a game-changer in healthcare robots. In this scenario, the surgeon would operate a robot that functions as the surgeon would in person.

Whereas 5G eMBB capabilities will be used to transmit a camera’s video footage to the surgeon in charge, low latencies guaranteed by URLLC are important for transmitting any kind of haptic feedback the surgeon would receive when conducting the surgery on the actual patient. This is done in real time and without any noticeable latency. These cellular network features enable the remotely connected surgeon to react to haptic feedback as quickly as if he or she were conducting the surgery on-site.

6. Remote Monitoring

Using embedded IoT trackers, 5G enables medical staff to monitor patient vitals in real time, which is crucial for responding to health issues as quickly as possible. And video feedback can be used to ensure the patient takes the correct medication.

For better remote diagnostics, eMBB can provide High-Definition (HD) video transmission. These network capabilities would greatly benefit Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based patient monitoring platforms that enable primary care physicians and elderly patients to directly communicate with one another virtually.

7. Medical Training

The highest demand for Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) in the healthcare space is seen in training and simulation use cases. These applications allow university students or medical staff trainees to experiment with medical devices before doing the real thing. AR/VR applications, because they require high bandwidth and low latency, will provide more realistic simulations for trainees when integrated with 5G. As a result, students will be prepared to provide excellent quality of care more quickly.

These higher-quality medical training experiences will mimic real-world surgeries more closely. This 5G healthcare use case will prepare trainees in the most optimal way and reduce the estimated 440,000 annual deaths due to preventable medical errors.

It should be noted that, like completely remote surgeries, medical training is more of a long-term opportunity (more than 3 years).

8. Connected Ambulances

5G-enabled tools like HD cameras and VR headsets can benefit paramedics by enhancing day-to-day operations. Imagine an ambulance picking up a patient with a severe wound. The paramedics could, through 5G-enabled HD streaming and a robot, connect a remote surgeon to the patient. The surgeon, equipped with a VR headset and haptic gloves, would see and feel what the robot sees and feels. Moreover, paramedics can use audio-visual sensors like head cameras to oversee the patient’s vital signs, Electrocardiogram (ECG) monitors, etc. By relaying this key information back to hospital staff, doctors can facilitate the appropriate treatment upon patient arrival.

Quality of care use cases like this, which is another long-term opportunity, would require 5G network slicing. As briefly showcased in our 2023 technology trends paper, 5G network slicing was used to enable smart healthcare applications at the West China Second University Hospital. Network slicing is crucial for ensuring that real-time streaming, patient monitoring, remote consultation, and surgery are possible in the ambulance.

Finally, 5G-enabled ambulances are efficient at identifying road conditions and helping other ambulances optimize their routes. This is done through Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V), Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I), and Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) solutions. By optimizing ambulance routes, these cellular connectivity technologies assist paramedics in getting to patients and bringing them to the hospital more quickly—saving lives.

Partner with ABI Research Today

In the post-pandemic world, the healthcare industry is only going to become more digitalized and smarter—stimulating demand for private 5G use cases provided by mobile operators. The connectivity benefits, as outlined in this blog post, make a strong case for neweer cellular technologies being adopted by healthcare institutions.

To keep a pulse on the need for 5G in healthcare, in addition to many other sectors, subscribe to ABI Research’s 5G Markets Research Service. You’ll gain access to the research reports, market data, and analyst insights that matter the most to you and your company.

Related Blog Posts

Related Services