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5G Network Infrastructure Improves Telemedicine, Remote Care

The evolution of 5G wireless will improve telemedicine and remote care by offering faster connections and higher bandwidths.

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- Healthcare organizations using advanced technology for telehealth and telemedicine care will need to consider the implications 5G technology will bring to health IT infrastructure, especially as remote patient care and remote clinicians become more common.

While 5G network infrastructure is not yet widespread, it is expected to grow at a CAGR of 70 percent though 2025, according to Market Reports Center.

Report authors stated that the 5G wireless ecosystem is expected to grow in the near future because of the initiatives taken by national and regional governments alone with network providers and wireless carriers.

The evolution into 5G networking will allow users to get better connections on mobile devices, making Internet of Things (IoT) and remote devices more effective.

The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) and other Standards Development Organizations (SDOs) are currently defining the first phase of 5G specifications before the first official 5G services are offered by vendors. The top wireless providers are rushing to be the first to offer standardized 5G services. Pre-Standard 5G networks are currently available in limited releases.

Earlier this year, Qualcomm, Ericsson, and AT&T announced plans to collaborate and conduct interoperability testing and over-the-air field trials based on the expected 5G New Radio (NR) specifications underdevelopment by 3GPP.

The 3GPP provides its organization partners with an environment to produce and test new telecommunication network standards, which will form the basis of the global standard. The organization aims to help move the global mobile ecosystem from 4G LTE to a faster 5G deployment based on standards-compliant 5G NR infrastructure.  

Qualcomm, Ericsson, and AT&T will test accelerated commercial deployments in the 28 GHz and 39 GHz bands. The companies will demonstrate the new 5G millimeter Wave (mmWave) technologies to increase network capacity by utilizing high frequency bands.

"The roadmap of 5G technologies is complex, and collaborations such as this are critical to ensuring timely deployment of 5G networks," Qualcomm Technologies Executive Vice President and CTO Matt Grob said in a statement. "The 3GPP-based trials we are planning with AT&T and Ericsson will help us accelerate integration of advanced 5G New Radio technologies in form-factor accurate devices, building upon our long history of 3G and 4G LTE leadership and paving the path to wide-scale 5G deployments."

While the trials are not expected to take place until the latter half of 2017, they are expected to yield valuable insight into integrating the technology into current mobile networks and devices.

Many successful telemedicine programs currently rely on 4G technology to care for patients in remote areas, or patients who cannot leave their homes for treatment.

The telemedicine program at Children’s Mercy in Kansas City, Missouri uses 4G technology so remote clinicians can quickly and securely connect to the datacenter. Children’s Mercy recently implemented Cradlepoint technology to utilize 4G in the place of patients’ in-home wireless network. Clinicians were running into problems because patient networks were not always reliable and not all patients have wireless networks in their homes.

“Cradlepoint is providing very high speed and reliable connectivity though 4G in a very secure way using a VPN to bring the information back to the data center in a way that is HIPAA compliant," Cradlepoint Business Development Vice President Ken Hosac told HITInfrastructure.com. “They can do everything they need to do over that high-speed internet connection without having to rely on wires. Some early attempts tried to use patient in-home networks but it doesn’t work reliably because there is a different environment in every home.”

With the expected rollout of 5G technology, programs like the telemedicine program at Children’s Mercy will have faster, more reliable connections to the datacenter. The wider bandwidth will provide better video quality for conferencing and allow larger blocks of data to be transferred at a time.