Better Care through IoT: 4G and 5G Cellular Solutions for the Medical Industry

Posted by on November 22, 2017 at 5:00 AM Carmi Brandis  
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Market Watch reports that global investment in IoT from the medical industry should top $410 billion by 2022, and much of this investment will come directly from cellular IoT markets. With the average hospital housing hundreds of patients and thousands of pieces of technology and medical equipment, IoT poses a potential solution for tracking, as well as for improved medical interventions. With 4G already offering service that is faster than Wi-Fi, and 5G expected to transform the IoT landscape by the end of the decade with even quicker service, the medical industry will benefit greatly from improved connectivity for tracking, remote healthcare, HIPPA compliance, and automated intervention.

Flexible, Fast, and Secure: Why Cellular IoT is Ideal for the Medical Industry

So what does cellular connectivity mean for hospitals? Speed is perhaps the most attractive feature of cellular networks. Medical applications have a low tolerance for delay, and the safety of patients requires that information is instantaneous accessible, making cellular the ideal platform for medical work. Cellular networks also come with enhanced security features and are not as vulnerable to virus and malware attacks as traditional Wi-Fi. For hospitals looking to enhance HIPPA compliance, cellular IoT presents an ideal alternative to complicated and expensive Wi-Fi security.

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The extended range and coverage of cellular networks also means that entire hospitals can be linked easily along the network. And with 4G and 5G, it would be feasible to link an entire medical center across one cellular network. The agility of cellular networking makes it possible to connect thousands of devices across one network without loss of data or straining the network. Whereas strained servers on a Wi-Fi network can frustrate medical professionals by delaying the receipt of data and scans, cellular connectivity’s ability to support a larger number of devices means that hundreds of users can access the network without experiencing any delays.

Here, There, Everywhere: Medical Applications from Cellular IoT

What can a hospital do with its cellular network once it’s been set up? With today’s 4G connectivity, cellular networks can streamline hospital operations and maximize productivity. Asset tracking is perhaps the most basic use for cellular IoT networks in the average hospital. Loss of controlled substances present a threat to the integrity of care, but the Wall Street Journal reports that many hospitals are turning to IoT-assisted tracking systems to save money on lost inventory. One hospital mentioned in the report is expected to save more than $600,000 just by automating IoT tracking alone. With a 4G network, hospitals easily can tag every narcotic, sedative, pain killer, and potential intoxicant in their onsite pharmacy with RFID tags that trigger a network alert if removed from their shelf or the pharmacy.

Readers placed throughout the hospital could help locate lost medications. Similarly, ambulatory patients can be tracked with GPS-linked cellular tracers, mobile heart rate and fall monitors, and cellular-linked IVs to monitor patient safety as they move through the hospital. Instant read-outs from scanners and testing also can be delivered over a cellular network straight to an attending physician’s phone or tablet for faster analysis.

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Closing the Distance: 5G and Remote Surgery

5G will make possible even more amazing applications in the near future. Low latency and reduced fracturing on 5G networks make for a more reliable network connection. In effect, communication between two machines attached on a 5G network truly will be instant. Arriving in 2019, 5G will reshape standards for acceptable delays in medical settings and require extensive updating of best practices. This counts as an improvement over 4G as it makes possible Virtual Reality (VR) applications and immediate automated interventions.

Remote surgery, however, is perhaps the most exciting use of 5G. While remote surgery is possible now with devices like the da Vinci Surgical System, Business Insider writes that only limited, low-risk surgeries can be performed through these means. Systems like da Vinci also require expensive network support to ensure failsafe connectivity, and Computer World notes that the system only can operate from a few feet or yards away.  

By contrast, 5G will make more involved remote surgeries possible while ensuring a network that never goes down or lags. Surgeons will be able to operate from anywhere in the world with the assistance of virtual reality goggles and haptic feedback gloves linked directly to the surgical machine. 5G-enabled VR surgery could improve care radically in rural areas, impoverished or war-torn nations, and even care in busy medical centers where surgical teams are short staffed.

Why Aeris?

Aeris is a network provider committed to providing innovative solutions to our customers. Drawing on our significant experience serving the medical industry, we can work with your engineering and IT team to develop a secure and flexible cellular network that speeds up communication and service for your hospital or medical facility.

Want to learn more about how we are preparing for the arrival of 5G and what this could mean for hospitals? Check out our recent webinar on Putting the IoT in the 5G and LTE and then contact us to get started planning your network today.

Topics: 4G, telemedicine,, Medical adherence, medical devices, 5G, remote surgery