You’ve probably heard a lot about how the internet of things is going to make a more connected world. But how is it going to affect the medical industry? A lot.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a revolution that is taking place all around us right now. From smart devices in the household to driverless cars to communication between technologies, IoT is changing the way that we interact with the world around us.

This will be greatly accelerated by 5G becoming more common. The next generation of mobile internet is set to allow speeds of at least 1GB per second to become the norm, which means we can expect to transfer massive amounts of information in lightning fast speeds, allowing us to program new technologies capable of effecting our everyday lives in ways we can’t begin to imagine.

No industry stands to benefit more than this right now than the medical industry. From patients sending full updates about their health in a jiffy, to surgeons being able to perform brain surgery in the most remote places in the world from afar, medicine is about to get shaken up.

How is the medical industry going to benefit from 5G?

First of all, 5G will accelerate the speed at which information can be sent back and forth, meaning that hospitals can get data to where it needs to go more quickly. This also means that patients can send their GP a full portfolio of their medical history in no time and that all this information can be stored more effectively.

Being able to send data doesn’t just mean that doctors can communicate better, it also means that information can be fed to machines which can then perform complex actions such as surgeries. This is all in the not too distant future, and in fact, much of it is already taking place.

Telesurgery – remote surgery

Telesurgery is something which is already being experimented with now. The concept here is that a surgeon can take control of a robotic device and control it to perform complex surgeries in remote locations even when the surgeon themself is hundreds or even thousands of miles away.

A Chinese surgeon has already performed surgery on a small animal from a distant lab using this technique, and it’s hoped that the technology will be widely deployed in the coming years.

You might be thinking that you’d much rather have a human on hand to perform your surgery, but consider if you were working in a remote outpost in say Antarctica or Greenland, or if you lived in a remote community in a mountainous and inaccessible area. This technology will open up the possibilities of remote surgery and save many lives in the process.

Telemedicine

Similar to what is mentioned above, 5G will make it much easier for patients to see their doctor in remote locations. This will be done by using ultra-HD video which has as yet been largely unavailable in rural areas due to a lack of signal.

Telemedicine would allow patients to quickly see a doctor and could be combined with smart devices that will allow the patient to read their vitals and have this information instantly available to the doctor. This would make going to the doctor a much less arduous process for people living in remote communities and could in-turn lead to a large-scale prevention of illness and disease by allowing patients to see specialists that wouldn’t usually be available.

AR & VR in training

The combination of 5G and AR and VR technology is opening the doors to some incredible advancements in the fields of medical and engineering training. By using a headset like the Microsoft HoloLens2 or some equivalent, a medical student can perform a surgery in VR and have detailed instructions along the way to assist in the process.

This opens up many doors regarding how much training a student can receive and will make for more capable students overall.

AR & VR in care

The same technologies mentioned above could also be used on patients in care homes and hospices to provide them with VR therapy that would reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety. This treatment, if proven effective, will change the way that people enjoy their last moments and could greatly improve the quality of life for those people.

Real-time patient tracking

Wearable devices are becoming increasingly common as a means of monitoring a patient’s vitals, such as heart rate and blood pressure, in real time. Many people are already using these devices and doctors attest that they are incredibly effective at keeping track of a patients overall health over time.

These devices aren’t just limited to those handed out by the doctor. Even the Apple Watch and other commercial smartwatches monitor your heart rate and some even check your blood pressure. This information can then be compiled into a portfolio, along with your average exercise, sleep patterns, and more and sent over routinely to your GP automatically.

What’s more, some of these devices even register when the wearer falls over and will send an emergency signal out in the event of an emergency situation. These devices are said to be on track to cut hospital costs by up to 16% in the next five years. That’s a massive win for hospitals and means that the money can be spent on improving other systems in the facilities.

Moving towards AI

Doctors are already beginning to use artificial intelligence (AI) to monitor patients and scope out potential diagnoses and prepare for them in advance. This could greatly improve the scope of care possible for patients, although, it would take a huge amount of data to pull off. With the dawn of 5G, that is now becoming possible.

Potential problems

As the world moves ever more into the datasphere, the need for security grows ever stronger. If doctors and patients are sending so much information back and forth, then it’s paramount that this isn’t hacked, stolen, or otherwise breached. This will require tighter security that is capable of meeting the latest threats in the digital world.

If your medical data is stolen, this could amount to a serious breach of privacy and it could be sold on to insurance companies who could then demand a higher premium from you, since they now know what illnesses you’re susceptible to.

The reality of the security issues we face going into the future is pretty staggering, but with affective measures in place and no penny spared when it comes to ensuing the best encryption possible for all this data, things should be alright.

The wrap-up

We’re so excited about 5G. The sheer magnitude at which it’s going to change the way the world interacts with technology is unknown to most, but seriously, it’s big. This next generation of mobile internet connectivity is going to promote huge advancements in various fields that will directly impact our daily lives.

Keeping up to date on the developments as they unfold is paramount, so make sure to keep your eye on the news and follow the latest technological advancements. This will ensure that you’re not completely baffled the next time you book an appointment at the doctors and walk into the office to find you’re greeted by a screen!

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