Ready to accelerate: The digital evolution of health in a 5G world

5G holds much promise for healthcare organizations to support innovative clinical use cases and use of technologies, as well as to help deliver critical data where it’s needed.
09:45 AM
Doctor using tablet

Right now, there’s no bigger buzz in the industry than 5G. The speed and low latency of fifth-generation connectivity should someday deliver essentially real-time access to point-of-care clinical data, drive faster AI, and support clinical use cases that were previously unimaginable.

It would be really easy to limit the discussion of 5G to speed alone. But acceleration in the evolving digital ecosystem of healthcare will require healthcare organizations to anticipate/envision a 5G-enabled world and then ramp quickly to get there: How could 5G shape new care delivery models? How could it shift operational dynamics and redefine work flows? Will it create new innovation frameworks? Will it change core business practices? Doing the same old thing just won’t work. Old legacy systems, outdated communications platforms, limited collaboration tools, and a stack of security solutions that offer limited assurance of security – these may no longer have any utility in the 5G future.

When we talk to our teams, customers, and partners about 5G, we’re not just focused on speed. Yes, 5G is fast. Near-gigabit speed is going to reshape care delivery. But to talk about the transformative power of real-time intelligence, immersive clinical education, remote asset operations, and edge computing, we have to talk about removing other barriers to delivery. We spend time with our customers architecting their roadmap to 5G by discussing these key waypoints on that journey:

•       Network transformation. Getting ready for 5G and setting up systems that enable innovation in communications, virtualization, automation, and on-demand care requires networking infrastructure that’s reliable and agile. That means taking purposeful strides away from outdated legacy systems toward software-defined and virtual networks that can scale quickly and accommodate growth.

•       Security. While 5G networks will bring some much-needed embedded security with IMSI encryption, there are still significant dependencies that have to be accounted for at the cyber-physical intersection. 5G will usher in an unprecedented proliferation of connected devices and “things,” making secure access and management of data even more critical. The attack surface is only going to get bigger, breach tactics more nuanced and diversified, and risk tolerance more sensitive. The healthcare industry stands to benefit immensely from the promise of real-time clinical precision with 5G, but stakeholders need to be taking proactive cybersecurity measures today to identify threat vectors, manage vulnerability, and secure systems, devices, and supply chains.

•       Collaboration. Where 5G will lay the groundwork for speed, the value of that capability will only be as strong as the communications systems built upon it. Healthcare employers need to be thinking about how their clinical teams and stakeholder groups currently collaborate. What tools are they using now? Where have they begun the transition to a streamlined and responsive communications infrastructure? Do care teams with remote assignments or home health responsibilities have the ability to communicate in real time? Beginning the work now to build a unified communications strategy will put you ahead of the game when 5G becomes the backbone of how your teams stay connected and coordinate patient care.

•       Experience. The greatest promise of 5G for this sector will be in opening the door to innovation in patient engagement and experience – capabilities and solutions that could not have been deployed on past generation networks. And while our customers are excited about new applications for real-time AR/VR, AI and machine learning, we encourage them to keep their feet on the ground and take a close, data-driven look at their customer/patient journeys. Healthcare organizations can get ready for 5G right now by mapping those patient journeys and identifying not only gaps in patient experience but also identifying touchpoints that are ripe for 5G-enabled innovation.

We often ask our partners in the 5G labs what they would do if speed could be assumed and latency barriers were basically eliminated. How big would they dream – for their operations, their service delivery, and their patient experiences – if 5G were their daily reality? It’s powerful to see them get excited about the possibilities.

Come see Verizon in Booth #3345 at HIMSS20 to explore those possibilities with our team.

About the Author:

Lea Sims is the global practice leader for healthcare, insurance and life science for Verizon Business Group, where she serves as an industry SME, oversees Verizon’s healthcare message in the marketplace, and manages the execution of Verizon’s healthcare strategy with key stakeholder groups within the industry, including HIMSS and CHIME. She has 30+ years in health information management promoting interoperability and clinical data integrity. Prior to coming to Verizon, she was executive director of professional practices for the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity.

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