The Applications of 5G in Medicine
Since the declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic by the WHO, hospitals have become packed with COVID-19 patients and are suffering due to staff shortages. The healthcare industry has been devising new solutions to cope with the current situation and one of these solutions is the use of 5G.
5G is the 5th generation of wireless communication and the successor of 4G, which it aims to improve on by enhancing upload and download speed while significantly reducing latency between users. 5G is able to achieve this through the use of mid and low band frequency waves, which are a combination of wave frequencies that are also utilized by 4G connection.
Since its development during 2017, companies have shifted their purpose for 5G with their initial plans being improving current broadband cellular connection to applying this technology to enhance healthcare technologies.
Currently, 5G is being used to boost internet speed to allow doctors from different nations to be able to communicate with each other. The implications of this technology are that doctors who are locked within their country are now able to support other countries who are struggling with COVID-19. The support sent comes in the forms of doctors assisting with remote diagnosing, sharing of research, medical advice and etc. This enables doctors to continue to support patients while preventing them from the threat of contracting COVID-19. China was actually one of the first countries to implement such a system with doctors from different parts of China assisting patients from Wuhan. This has piqued the interest of nations from around the world with countries such as the US beginning to adopt the 5G platform to support their medical staff. Research has shown that the shift towards 5G has also prompted nations to implement the same system.
The application of 5G is used to enhance international calls but it was also used for surgery during 2019. With the high-speed upload and low latency capabilities of 5G, doctors who are miles away from the actual site of the surgery are able to relay real-time feedback to perform the surgery. The first time this was implemented was when a doctor in the city of Sanya, China performed a remote surgery on a patient who resided in Beijing, China which was about 1900 miles away from each other.
Although the significance of wireless technology may seem anew, its implications were already sought after, especially due to the growing demand for telesurgery. On September 7, 2001, the first-ever remote surgery was performed in France. During the operation, a 68-year-old female had her gallbladder removed by doctors who were controlling a robot from New York. Although optic cables were used to establish a low latency connection during the surgery, with the development of 5G, telehealth has become more accessible to the public. People no longer need to purchase flights to seek help from international professionals when they can easily contact them through the use of 5G.
The application of 5G does not end there, as prior to the pandemic companies examined the use of 5G towards rehabilitation and education. The use of robots to assist in therapy for those who have suffered from an amputation is being discussed currently, as robots would be able to greatly benefit through the use of 5G. As a matter of fact, robots would now have greater connectivity with its user which allows it to have greater response times for a better and more comfortable experience for the patient.
In terms of the educational aspect of medicine, doctors are beginning to experiment with the applications of 5G towards VR and AR. VR, also known as virtual reality, is the use of digital technology to create scenarios or virtual worlds. This new set of technology works through the use of a headset that has a screen attached to it, allowing users to explore the digital world as if they are in it. The medical community is planning to use this new technology as a means to provide med students with a more immersive learning experience. Through the use of VR, students are able to have a greater visualization of cases; for example, students are able to experience and view previous surgery cases as if they were there. 5G has the potential to allow multiple students to view live surgeries at the same time, allowing all students an equal opportunity to learn from a live observer’s perspective. In turn, research claims that through these new methods of learning, students are said to be able to learn more which is predicted to make them well-versed doctors as they begin their journey into medicine.
The potential applications of 5G in medicine are endless as we have just scratched the surface of its uses in the vast field of medicine. However, if one thing is for certain, once this pandemic is over, healthcare industries will continue to discover new avenues as to how 5G may improve the current status of healthcare.
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