Nearly 100 hospitals are exploring different use cases of 5G+ healthcare, such as remote group consultation, remote surgery, mobile ward rounds, emergency rescue, and intra-hospital monitoring. These hospitals are among the many first-movers to apply 5G in their industry.
The urgent needs of smart healthcare will mean huge value in 5G+ healthcare
The market for smart healthcare is steadily growing around the world. Statistics show that global spending on smart healthcare services between 2016 and 2018 increased at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 60%, and the smart healthcare industry will be valued at an estimated US$400 billion by 2019.
Japan has a large aging population, and elderly people aged over 60 account for 20.5% of its total population. Therefore, Japan has a huge demand for smart healthcare products related to senile diseases.
Europe also has an aging population and a large number of unexpected immigrants; as a result, much of its medical equipment urgently needs to be upgraded. To meet these demands, many European countries have seen rapid growth in their smart healthcare equipment market, and Germany has become the largest producer and exporter of such equipment in Europe.
China has huge prospects for 5G+ healthcare. This is because China's medical resources are not evenly allocated, making telemedicine a pressing need. With a shortage of medical resources, the healthcare industry needs to go digital to boost efficiency.
Given the current situation facing China's healthcare industry, digital healthcare is key to addressing these challenges, with 5G smart healthcare at the core of it. With high bandwidth, low latency, and massive connections, 5G will make mobile remote diagnoses and remote surgery possible, and increase the management efficiency within hospitals.
In combination with cloud computing, mobile edge computing, big data, artificial intelligence, and blockchain, 5G will drive upgrades and transformations in medical information systems and remote medical platforms.
5G+ healthcare use cases
5G offers high bandwidth, low latency, and massive connections to enable various smart healthcare use cases.
Use case 1: Remote group consultation
5G's high bandwidth supports 4K and 8K remote group consultations and high-speed sharing and transmission of medical images and data. This will make remote consultation a reality, allowing medical experts to hold group consultations whenever and wherever they are.
Use case 2: Remote ultrasound
Rural hospitals lack outstanding ultrasound physicians and are thus in need of high-definition remote ultrasound systems with no latency. Remote ultrasound means experts on a remote side perform ultrasound checks on patients at rural hospitals by controlling a robotic arm.
Remote ultrasound is made possible with 5G's millisecond latency. 5G networks can solve the problems that traditional private lines and Wi-Fi cannot. Private lines, for example, take a lot of manual efforts and money to deploy in remote areas such as rural hospitals and islands. And Wi-Fi is not secure enough for data transmission and has high latency in remote operations.
Use case 3: Remote emergency rescue
5G can provide wide-area, continuous coverage for ambulances. That means patients can receive the same medical treatment on the ambulance as they could in a hospital. 5G networks can send high-definition videos about what is going on inside the ambulance, as well as the patient's condition by monitoring their vital signs, back to the command center on the back end in real time.
Generally speaking, 5G can transmit patient information monitored by medical equipment and the location of the ambulance in real time, as well as videos about what's happening within and outside the ambulance. This enables doctors at hospitals to organize remote group consultations and provide remote guidance to doctors on the ambulance.
Use case 4: Remote training
Medical education and training need to be conducted in near real-world scenarios, otherwise the effect of training cannot be guaranteed. With 5G networks, trainers can use AR/VR and 3D digital models to conduct medical education and training, providing a more immersive experience for trainees.
Use 5: Logistics robots
Nurses and other medical staff spend a lot of time and effort distributing medications and providing various medical services to patients. This adds to the shortage of nursing resources.
Leveraging 5G's high bandwidth, autonomous driving has found key applications in logistics robots at hospitals. These robots can help effectively distribute medical supplies across the entire hospital to help medical staff work more efficiently. The staff can place orders in the distribution system and robots will send the items needed to the designated place quickly and accurately, in order to close the gap in medical staff shortages.
Use case 6: Remote surgery
The low latency and high bandwidth of 5G networks have made remote surgery a reality. Using robots and high-definition audio and visual interactive systems, offsite experts can perform remote surgeries on patients at rural hospitals in a timely manner.
5G networks will also create applications in remote monitoring, smart hospital guide, mobile healthcare, smart hospital management, and AI-assisted diagnoses and treatment. All these smart healthcare applications will take healthcare to the next level.
5G+ healthcare is booming
The year 2019 is considered the first year of 5G commercialization. Since the Chinese government issued 5G licenses to telecom operators, 5G+ healthcare has been growing rapidly. Huawei has worked with the three major operators in China to explore smart healthcare applications in many hospitals.
This January, for example, Huawei worked with China Unicom Fujian and the Mengchao Hepatobiliary Hospital of Fujian Medical University to pilot the world's first 5G-enbaled remote surgery on animals.
Later in February, the Second Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang University School of Medicine and China Mobile Zhejiang built China's first 5G-enabled remote emergency rescue system. This system includes multiple sub-systems, such as 5G-enabled remote ultrasound, 5G-enabled emergency rescue command center, and VR immersive diagnosis and treatment.
In April, the Shanghai Yue-yang Integrated Medicine (IM) Hospital and the Xishui Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Guiyang held a remote group consultation using 5G and promoted naprapathy used in traditional Chinese medicine. The remote group consultation brought together two hospitals 1,866 kilometers away from each other, the longest distance in China's telemedicine practice.
The Guangdong Provincial People's Hospital and the People's Hospital of Gaozhou completed China's first surgery using 5G and AI, which helped treat the patient's heart disease. This surgery was performed by the People's Hospital of Gaozhou, guided by the Guangdong Provincial People's Hospital using 5G, which is 400 kilometers away from Gaozhou.
On April 3, mRobot, Huawei, China Unicom, and the Wuhan Asia Heart Hospital worked closely to apply 5G in the hospital's logistics robots, the first of its kind in the world. This has turned the hospital into a 5G-enabled smart hospital.
In the following month, Huawei worked with China Mobile Henan and other partners to deploy China's first 5G+ medical experiment network, and apply 5G for the first time in remote ultrasound checks and remote group consultations among others.
5G+ smart healthcare applications are emerging faster than ever imagined. Huawei has worked with hundreds of telecoms operators, hospitals, and medical equipment providers on dozens of research projects. For example, Huawei has teamed up with the Internet Health Care Industry Alliance, National Engineering Laboratory for Internet Medical Systems and Applications, China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom to release the China 5G e-Health White Paper. Huawei has also partnered with Winning Health Technology Group to launch data lake solutions for smart healthcare.
Currently, many organizations and hospitals that work to digitize the health industry are exploring 5G+ healthcare applications. "I believe that the commercial use of 5G will disrupt future medical models," said Zhao Jie, Deputy Secretary of the Party Committee in the First Affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou University. "That means, in the future, doctors will be able to provide services to patients anytime anywhere, allowing our patients to receive high-quality medical resources whether at home or in the hospital."
We can achieve greatness when we work together. With the concerted efforts of the telecoms industry and the healthcare industry, we will see a boom in 5G+ smart healthcare and a better future.