Samsung recently announced the Galaxy S10, a phone with 5G capabilities. With all of the buzz surrounding 5G, it will be very interesting to watch how the S10 affects the market for phones and consumer electronics. However, it seems important to ask what is 5G and how will it affect other industries? According to PreScout,”5G is the fifth generation of mobile networking systems…it is expected to enable self-driving cars, drones and the download of movies in the blink of an eye”. Such an improvement in network performance could have massive effects on every industry. Qualcomm estimates that by 2035 there will be at least $12 trillion 5G related services. That is a massive market, and the changes are already starting. Beyond the Galaxy S10, T-Mobile says it will have 5G available nationwide in 2020, and AT&T promised 5G coverage in 19 cities by the first half of 2019. The effects of 5G will be here sooner rather than later.
While 5G is very commonly associated with capabilities such as self-driving cars and IoT devices, another industry that will be transformed by 5G is healthcare. According to a study done by IHS Market, over $1 trillion in healthcare offerings will be enabled by 5G. One area that will see massive growth is called telemedicine. Telemedicine is defined as “the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients by telecommunications technology.” A great example of telemedicine came in 2001 when a surgeon in New York City removed a woman’s gallbladder in France. The surgeon was able to sit at a console and control an operating robot in real time. However, this procedure was only made possible by a transoceanic fiber-optic cable. 5G will eliminate the need for such a cable, thus connecting medical professionals to people everywhere that have 5G capabilities. Imagine being able to receive a medical diagnosis from a doctor halfway across the world from you. Further, 5G will boast much more consistent coverage than 4G, allowing patients living in rural and underdeveloped parts of the world access to the best healthcare coverage in the world. This will not only allow people to receive better medical coverage but will allow those living in areas with no medical coverage access to the best medical assistance in the world. The market for healthcare will expand exponentially.
Another aspect of healthcare that will benefit greatly from 5G is the ability to send MRI’s and other complex medical images. Oftentimes these files must be sent to a specialist for review. However, these files take a long time to send and sometimes don’t even send at all. 5G network speeds would allow these images to be sent almost instantly. Reducing the lag time in file delivery would greatly reduce patient wait time, increase specialist productivity, and further allow specialists to work remotely. This, in turn, could lead to more accurate diagnosis, lower medical costs for the patient, and a larger market for specialists.
Not only will 5G change specialist’s ability to study images remotely but with the expansion of wearable technologies, doctors will be able to monitor patients in real time. Imagine the apple watch on steroids. As opposed to spending time being monitored in a hospital, patients could be given a wearable sensor and monitored from home. This could greatly reduce medical costs and patient comfort. I don’t know about anyone else, but I have never met a person who likes being held overnight in a hospital. This capability would also be a huge benefit to the elderly, possibly allowing individuals to avoid going into assisted living for longer. Aside from monitoring patients who need treatment, the expansion of wearables may actually help prevent the need for medical help as well. According to Anthem, doctors say wearables increase patient engagement with their health by 86% and are predicted to lower hospital costs by 16% over the next five years.
The Effects of 5G on Doctor’s and Hospitals
As 5G slowly becomes more available it is safe to assume it will once again change the digital landscape. Moving forward, doctor’s will have to adapt to a completely new competitive environment. In the world of telemedicine and long-distance treatment, simply being the only specialist in a certain area will not be enough. Since patients can rely on essentially any doctor in the world, competition to gain clients will increase, and patients will receive better care. Further, I expect to see an expansion of large hospitals. These hospitals have the resources to create a truly global network and I think it’s very possible that in the years following 5G we will see a concentration of business into large global hospitals. Although, as is the nature of disruptive technologies I believe that the biggest changes to healthcare may come from innovation that we can’t even see coming. It will certainly be interesting to watch unfold.
On a more personal note, I would like to conclude by giving a little information on how the change of the healthcare industry affects me personally. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was seven years old, and since have seen massive innovation in the healthcare space. When I was first diagnosed, many diabetics were still transitioning to insulin pumps (a device that administers insulin as opposed to receiving injections for every meal). Now I wear a pump that monitors my blood sugar and adjusts the insulin I receive accordingly, greatly reducing the amount of thought I have to put into my diabetes. As connected devices and telemedicine expand I am very excited to see how this changes my diabetes treatment personally. Hopefully, I will be one of the first to try some of the new diabetes-related technologies available!
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