Vodafone: ‘Clear majority’ want to see 5G used to transform healthcare

Vodafone: ‘Clear majority’ want to see 5G used to transform healthcare
Ryan is a senior editor at TechForge Media with over a decade of experience covering the latest technology and interviewing leading industry figures. He can often be sighted at tech conferences with a strong coffee in one hand and a laptop in the other. If it's geeky, he’s probably into it. Find him on Twitter: @Gadget_Ry

Vodafone’s latest report highlights the public appetite for using technologies such as 5G and the IoT to transform healthcare.

The aforementioned emerging technologies have vast potential for healthcare, especially when combined.

5G-equipped ambulances, for example, could communicate with smart traffic lights to ensure they can pass safely and unhindered. Four in five respondents to Vodafone’s report say they want to see 5G ambulances.

The speed, reliability, and low latency offered by 5G networks also enables new opportunities for remote surgery. A patient could one day receive surgery from a specialist regardless of whether they’re in the same hospital or the other side of the world. Three in five respondents support the use of 5G for remote surgery.

Amid the pandemic, GPs have increased their use of remote consultations to help limit the spread of COVID-19 and ensure they can continue giving help to those who need it. Some things require physical examinations but the use of remote consultations where possible helps to speed up the whole system for both medical staff and patients.

60 percent of respondents say that video consultations are more convenient than visiting a GP surgery or hospital in person. 57 percent say they’d be comfortable with continuing to have remote medical appointments even after the pandemic is over (which, let’s not get our hopes up too much, but seems closer than ever.)

The UK government has committed to building 40 new NHS hospitals by 2030. While existing facilities can be retrofitted, Vodafone notes the new hospitals provide an “unmissable opportunity” to design them with 5G and IoT technologies from the ground up.

Here’s what Vodafone envisions such a hospital could look like:

Over 70 percent believe that it is important for new hospitals to be 5G connected⁠—a requirement if healthcare is going to be revolutionised in the ways many people expect it to in the coming years.

Vodafone makes policy recommendations in its report which could help the UK government to unlock the healthcare benefits of 5G.

The first policy recommendation is a £1.5bn investment to connect every hospital in England to 5G while also encouraging the research of groundbreaking applications through dedicated regional innovation centres.

Another suggestion is a £30 million fund to increase the number of drone trials. Drones, useful for quickly delivering time-sensitive organs and supplies, were among the uses of 5G technology supported (~63%) by the public.

To help ensure people on lower incomes are not left behind, Vodafone suggests a voucher scheme to help update smart devices to models compatible with NHS digital services like the COVID-19 contact tracing app.

Vodafone also advises that healthcare professionals should be able to “prescribe” technologies such as wearables where they can help tackle long-term health conditions like diabetes and obesity. The company suggests a £100m fund is established within 12 months for the full introduction of such a scheme by 2022.

Loneliness and isolation is a devastating issue, especially for the elderly in care homes. The situation has only been made worse during this pandemic and no-one knows when the next will hit once this one is over. Vodafone says the government should cover the £4 million cost of providing a year’s worth of broadband access to the thousands of care homes with little or no connectivity to help loved ones stay in touch.

A full copy of Vodafone’s report is available here (PDF)

(Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash)

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