Safety, accuracy and mobility: How 5G is will super-charge Canadian healthcare - image 1

Connecting Canadians

Safety, accuracy and mobility: How 5G will super-charge Canadian healthcare

Dec 23, 2021

(Above) 5G promises to vastly improve virtual care options, opening a world to where surgeries and other specialist procedures are made possible using smart glasses, like those pictured above, and other innovations. SHUTTERSTOCK

When you consider 5G, most people automatically think of smartphones. But there is a new evolution in 5G that is being delivered through wearable technology. 

According to digital industry experts, the future of wireless technology promises to make one of the greatest impacts on the healthcare sector. A recent report cites improved video conferencing and low latency for augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) applications, as well as the Internet of Things (IoT) revolution, including enhancing uses for things such as wearables, as radically benefitting patient care by revolutionizing health tech. These 5G enhancements will  enable real-time communications with physicians and medical experts wherever patients may be across the country.

“When I think about 5G, it’s really about providing Canadians with faster, secure connections for virtual care visits with clinicians and to enable things like remote patient monitoring,” says Brandon Walker, TELUS’ strategic program director of IoT.

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5G’s faster speeds and lower latency mean virtual appointments become more seamless, with higher quality video and less delay between physicians and patients, wherever they may be in Canada. SHUTTERSTOCK

Expanding healthcare to more places with 5G

Among the most anticipated developments, 5G promises to vastly improve virtual care options to include a world where surgeries and other specialist procedures are made possible using smart glasses and other innovations.

Smart glasses developed by Hippo Technologies, for instance, use hands-free wearable computers and cameras to relay what the wearer sees and allow them to communicate with remote observers in real-time. Similarly, an emergency medical technician (EMT) could arrive on scene wearing one of Hippo’s headsets and connect in real-time with a team of specialists that can see what’s happening and offer life-saving advice and guidance.

“Hippo’s virtual-care headsets provide a you-are-there experience for the remote observer, which is unlike the traditional telehealth solutions that exist today,” says Dr. Pat Quinlan, Hippo Technologies CEO and co-founder. 

Already the next-generation network is offering good news to Canadians in communities outside urban settings: Faster speeds and lower latency mean proximity to medical facilities is less important, while virtual appointments become more seamless, with higher quality video and less delay between participants. 

As for remote-patient monitoring, 5G will help power real-time analytics to enable healthcare providers to better monitor and understand their patients’ health and well-being. 

There is strong evidence to suggest that tools such as telemonitoring and digital health records can generate comparable and even improved healthcare outcomes for patients with chronic conditions and other health issues. In addition, widespread teleconsultations could help reach Canadians in communities where medical care is harder to access and improve their wellbeing.

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Current tech works on current networks, but 5G offers more potential

It’s important to keep in mind that 5G is still relatively new. 

Quinlan’s Hippo virtual care solution is a great example of the crossover point where we are now. Hippo’s smart glasses technology works with existing networks at 3G and 4G speeds. Part of the journey to 5G will be seeing how the company, and others, push existing technologies further or create entirely new experiences tailored to the next-generation wireless network.

In order for Canadians to be able to realize the full benefits of 5G for health outcomes, we need 5G to be available ubiquitously across Canada. 5G is currently rolling out across the country, but spectrum auctions are a critical component and current spectrum policy in Canada is not inline with international best practices.

The same report that cites the potential benefits of 5G on the healthcare sector recognizes that Canada could be leaving  up to $40B out of the Canadian economy, simply because the spectrum policy in Canada is out of sync. It states: “ To maximise the potential of 5G for consumers and enterprises in Canada, the government needs to ensure a supportive regulatory and policy environment for operators so they can invest in the new technology, deliver better network quality and accelerate the rollout of 5G networks.”

“There’s no light switch that gets flipped for 5G,” says Walker. “What I see as interesting is the interplay we will see happen between the availability of spectrum network investments from companies like TELUS, as well as innovation happening in the tech sector that will truly bring 5G to life for Canadians.”

A version of this story was originally published in Mobile Syrup

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