Will 5G be the key to leveraging the development of telemedicine technology?

In the story of the speed of fighting the new coronavirus, the completion and delivery of Wuhan Huoshenshan Hospital is amazing. In addition to the efficiency of building a 33,900 square meter hospital in 11 days, the rapid growth of 5G base stations around Vulcan Mountain also made this battle a little brighter. As the world’s first hospital to fully use the 5G network, Vulcan Mountain has completed the system installation and delivery of the “remote consultation platform” with the help of Huawei and operators, enabling telemedicine to be applied in a timely and effective manner in this epidemic.

Remote diagnosis and treatment by experts from other places improves the efficiency of patient treatment, 5G VR intensive care unit reduces direct contact between doctors and patients, 5G cloud detection improves virus screening efficiency…Telemedicine puts forward high requirements in real-time video, medical file sharing, etc. The high-speed, low-latency and other characteristics of the 5G network just meet the technical standards for various important scenarios of telemedicine.

At present, China has completed 5G network coverage in first- and second-tier cities. The explosive demand for telemedicine applications in this epidemic has once again highlighted the powerful support functions of 5G in medical care and the Internet of Things. If no breakthrough applications of 5G are seen on the C-side, will 5G be the fulcrum for the development of telemedicine?

Patients wearing medical sensors transmit physiological data to medical staff at home, being in remote villages, they can also be taken care of by key urban hospitals, and remote surgical guidance from experts at home and abroad…. The originally desirable telemedicine imagination is landing. Avera E-Care, a virtual hospital in Dakota, USA, is a network-based telemedicine institution. Now it has activated a 5G network to provide higher work efficiency for intensive care units and emergency rooms.

Including downtown and remote rural areas, Avera E-Care provides services to more than 450 clinics and hospitals in 30 states in the United States through the use of telephone and the Internet. The connection and delay rate of 5G is almost only one percent of 4G. For telemedicine institutions such as Avera E-Care that provide emergency assistance, network upgrades represent a qualitative change.

  

The low latency of 5G makes ultra-high-quality video communication and instant immersive experience possible. At the end of 2019, Palazzini, an authoritative professor of Italian surgical technology, completed an immersive 4K remote surgery with the support of the 5G network through virtual reality goggles. The operating room is equipped with three simulcast cameras including 360-degree ultra-high-definition equipment, allowing Professor Palazzini, who was not present, to observe the vital signs of patients and interact with the on-site medical team in real time during the operation.

Professor Palazzini is able to select and zoom in on important screen details during the operation to provide supervision for the operation. More than 30,000 surgeons around the world watched the operation through a live broadcast. Elisabetta Romano, Chief Innovation and Partnership Officer of TIM, said: “New opportunities are emerging in the field of surgery, and patients and the entire medical science field will benefit.”

The characteristics of 5G network coupled with artificial intelligence, medical Internet of Things, and future robotics technology are generating unprecedented power in the field of healthcare. Although telemedicine was not born due to 5G networks, it cannot be denied that medical scenarios such as remote consultation and surgery, emergency rescue, and mobile medical care are being rolled out with the advent of the 5G era.

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus in Wuhan has highlighted the contradiction in the distribution of urban and rural medical resources and the problem of emergency dispatch, and has also given 5G and telemedicine an opportunity to perform. 5G features such as high-speed, low-latency, and wide connectivity are mutually applied with multiple telemedicine scenarios to promote development. The mobility of 5G network breaks through the shackles of traditional remote consultation with wired connection, and its high speed allows 4K/8K medical images to be shared in time. In addition, the high-definition millisecond delay makes it possible to implement remote ultrasound inspection and remote surgery.

At the beginning of 2019, Chengdu Third People’s Hospital carried out remote medical research based on the 5G network. In the remote ultrasound diagnosis demonstration, the doctor used the camera and program data transmission, and manipulated the robotic arm to perform ultrasound examinations on distant patients, realizing remote and near-end ultrasound. The quality of diagnosis is highly consistent. Since the low latency can make up for the lack of resources of excellent ultrasound doctors in primary hospitals to a certain extent, it can also break through geographical restrictions and implement remote surgical control and guidance.

In March 2019, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army General Hospital successfully completed the country’s first 5G-based remote human surgery; in April, also with the support of the 5G network, Guo Huiming, a cardiologist at the Guangdong Provincial People’s Hospital, remotely guided a minimally invasive cardiac surgery Surgery; On June 27th, Tian Wei, Dean of Beijing Jishuitan Hospital, performed one-to-two remote surgery on two patients in Yantai and Jiaxing, once again relying on 5G network and remote technology to achieve high-quality medical and human resources sink.

In addition, high-quality medical resource sharing, mobile emergency rescue, and medical Internet of Things are all active applications of 5G in telemedicine. Medical equipment and wearable devices are connected to the 5G network, providing new possibilities for continuous remote patient monitoring and medical record management. There are many emergency cases and trials. China lacks specialized and clearly positioned telemedicine institutions like Avera E-Care, so that existing comprehensive medical institutions can engage in telemedicine only occasionally.

In November 2019, the American Medical Association adopted a policy advocating the expansion of broadband and wireless network access in the backward areas of the United States. The reason is that low-quality Internet hinders the availability of emerging digital medical services (such as telemedicine). Telemedicine’s requirements for network quality are two-way. Nowadays, the large-scale deployment of China’s 5G network is still limited to first- and second-tier cities, and it is naturally impossible to talk about remote diagnosis and treatment in remote areas.

Secondly, the more serious the disease, the more frequent the monitoring that needs to be carried out, and the more data generated. In 2017, respiratory experts from China and Japan were invited to participate in a telemedicine conference on lung failure held in Singapore, but a 12 GB medical record data was not successfully sent from 8 am to 7 pm. Due to the numerous medical application scenarios, policy mechanisms, industry business processes, and ethical boundaries under specific scenarios also need to be formulated and improved. Before a new technology is fully launched and applied, it is necessary to provide a set of exact implementation safety and quality standards, as well as corresponding supervision methods.

Although it has been born for more than 40 years, today’s telemedicine is still in the preliminary stage of development. The 5G network has brought an opportunity for telemedicine to take off, but when and how far it can be jumped is still a result of many uncertain factors. The key is whether there will be innovations in professional telemedicine service institutions in China. In the next 10 years, perhaps this will become an innovative direction.

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