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How 5G is helping
to enable a future
of real-time
care in medicine

Author: Megan Williams

Interprofessional care is critical to successful healthcare because it not only brings together a variety of medical professionals that can help a patient receive the full spectrum of care they need, it also allows care practitioners to share knowledge and enact better care practices

These teams thrive on efficient communication. In today's digital, remote world, that means reliable connectivity is a key driver that supports interprofessional collaboration in healthcare. Technology can enable real-time communication, streamlined, efficient file sharing, advanced remote patient monitoring devices and even has the ability to connect real operating rooms with virtual ones—yet much of the promise of interprofessional collaboration in healthcare remains unrealized.

The importance of collaborative interprofessional care

Interprofessional care refers to any situation where multiple providers from different professions - for instance a nurse, a physician’s assistant, a specialist and a pharmacist - work together to provide patients with comprehensive health services in order to help improve patient experience and outcomes. This can happen either within one setting, typically a physical place like a hospital, or across multiple settings including remote and telemedicine scenarios.  In many cases, long-standing healthcare silos exist where interprofessional care is not practiced which may impede communication and leave patients experiencing fragmented care.

Breaking down these silos through more cooperation across traditional professional boundaries can lead to increased access and improved health outcomes for patients, especially those with complex and chronic diseases. But the benefits don't stop at helping patients. Organizations stand to see engaged healthcare professionals who can avoid burnout, improved use of clinical resources, easier recruitment and lower rates of turnover.

Consider the case of a diabetic patient who would like to stabilize their A1C levels. Their team might include their primary care provider, a nutritionist to develop new eating habits, an endocrinologist, a translation services specialist to help facilitate communication and a social worker to help navigate programs that can help to cover costs.

How 5G powers interprofessional collaboration in healthcare

Robust communication technologies are a bridge to the future of interprofessional care.  A fuller realization of the potential of 5G connectivity—in addition to a fuller understanding of the importance of interprofessional collaboration in healthcare—could bring better results and greater efficiencies to healthcare organizations.  One solution is private 5G—a type of network that can provide the speed and low latency of 5G with the security layers of a private network.

In the modern healthcare environment, large amounts of data are being transferred at each touch point - between healthcare providers, insurance companies, the patient, their family, the hospital.  Seamless, real-time communication will help to increase the value and utility of interprofessional care teams as they become more common and the use of 5G can help to transmit data more efficiently.

In addition to a constant flow of near-instantaneous data, the files and information that are passed back and forth between medical professionals can be incredibly large, dense and challenging to transfer. For example, 3D CT scans can range from 20 to 30 GB in size. Sharing this type of information is critical to achieving seamless interprofessional care. With the low latency and higher capacity it can provide, 5G can help teams overcome the challenges of transferring these massive files.

5G-powered technologies could be used to facilitate communication between doctors, nurses and specialties in use cases such as telemedicine. Telemedicine can help improve patient care as traveling while ill can be difficult and time-consuming.  5G technologies could be used to enable seamless video conferencing between both the doctor and the patient, as well as between multiple doctors and it can help improve remote patient monitoring. 

Here's one example of the life-saving potential of 5G connectivity: A patient presents abnormal symptoms during a procedure —one that requires a second opinion. If a specialist isn't available on-site and the patient can't be safely transferred to another location, the patient's life could be at risk.

Health tech company Avesha created a video conferencing solution that uses BlueJeans video collaboration and Samsung Galaxy tablets to consult virtually with medical experts to obtain guidance in near real-time in a situation like the one described above.  This solution uses cloud computing allowing Avesha to help bring services closer to where data is being generated and connects over a mobile network to establish a safe and reliable communication platform between medical professionals, which can connect to 5G.

Bringing interprofessional care to the next level with 5G

Ultimately, 5G's faster download and upload speeds and potential to provide higher video quality can enable smoother transfers between organizations and the cloud. These features could help interprofessional care teams to process larger amounts of higher resolution images and data—better informing their decisions—all while helping them communicate and collaborate with each other more effectively.

The jump from 4G to 5G also means that interprofessional teams could be better able to take advantage of big data innovation as their organizations move into a future of decentralized care models and location-independent professional collaboration.

Learn more about how Verizon is reimagining interprofessional collaboration in healthcare with 5G.