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Organizations Prepare Their Health IT Infrastructure for 5G

Recent advancements in 5G technology makes it an appealing option for health IT infrastructure to support telehealth initiatives.

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Organizations are preparing their health IT infrastructures for 5G, according to a recent Ericsson survey.

The report surveyed IT decision-makers across all major verticals, including healthcare, and found that 78 percent of respondents have accelerated their plans to incorporate 5G into their IT infrastructures.

The survey marked a significant turn away from consumer uses in the 5G market, leaning more toward enterprise and industrial uses.

"In the 2016 survey, 90 percent of the respondents pointed to consumers as the main segment in their 5G business planning,” Ericsson Head of 5G Commercialization Thomas Noren said in a statement. “This year, it is an even split between three segments and operators have identified business opportunities not only in the consumer segment but also with enterprise users and specialized industries."

Several of the top industries highlighted by the survey included automotive, utilities, and healthcare. Within these industries, respondents said that the Internet of Things (IoT) will play an important role in 5G adoption.

The report also touched the importance of organizations working with 5G vendors and IoT device manufacturers to leverage the technology successfully.

“A determined and well-conceived strategy for 5G is not an option today; it’s an imperative and an opportunity,” said report authors. “If there is one take-away from the 5G Readiness Survey, it is that in the past year, leading operators around the world have stepped up their efforts to get ready for 5G—incorporating technology, strategy, and business considerations.”

Healthcare organizations are particularly interested in 5G because of the implications it has for the advancement of telehealth, remote care, and communication.

The 5G market as a whole is also 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 increasing number of devices connecting to a network can cause bottle-necking and slow services if all of the devices are seeking to connect at the same time via WiFi. Many healthcare IoT devices are leveraging wireless cellular networks and the emergence of 5G will make cellular connections even faster and more reliable.

Entities use cellular connections over WiFi because it’s more reliable and allows the devices to be truly mobile.

Each medical IoT device has an antenna that connects the device to the healthcare network, Taoglas Co-Founder and Co-CEO Dermot O’Shea told HITInfrastructure.com in a previous interview.

“Most organizations use cellular because it’s the only reliable way to really communicate with the devices,” O’Shea explained. “If you’re only using WiFi then you’re relying on the user, patient or caregiver to do all the WiFi connectivity in terms of selecting the WiFi network and putting in the password.” 

Cellular networks give wireless networks a break from IoT devices passing into and out of the premises. Cellular networks also let devices keep the same connection as it travels from place to place, without having to disconnect and reconnect to various wireless networks.

Furthermore, the cellular option provides relief for on-premises network deployments by taking on much of the IoT traffic during peak hours, which would otherwise slow down the network.

“Cellular is more robust in an environment,” continued O’Shea. “It’s never a problem if too many people are using cellular to log onto the network like it is with WiFi. That’s often the problem in a hospital. There’s too many people using the network at the same time and it slows down the network. “

Healthcare organizations need to prepare themselves for 5G as they plan to add more IoT devices to their network. The more advanced technology takes strain off the wireless network and gives organizations more flexibility to add more devices.