The healthcare industry presents ready-made applications for ultra-reliable, low latency communication (URLLC), artificial intelligence (AI), big data storage, augmented reality, and the internet of things (IoT).

Unlike factories and ports, healthcare services are also closely linked to one-to-one human interaction. Creating a connected healthcare ecosystem where technology and personalized care seamlessly coexist is the goal of healthcare professionals, communications service providers (CSPs), engineers, and scientists.

Defining Connected Health

The term “connected health” is a bit different from similar designations such as digital medicine and telehealth because it is based on a recognition that advanced technology is best used to strengthen, rather than replace, the connections between patients and healthcare providers. This includes ongoing efforts to reduce costs and improve patient awareness. Until recently, limitations on communication speed, latency, and capacity have prevented the full potential of connected health from being realized.

Why are 5G and Hyperscale So Important for Healthcare?

Providing widespread access to doctors, treatments, and diagnostics can be challenging, particularly in rural areas with less health centers and specialists. Practices including virtual consultations, remote patient monitoring, and robotic surgeries help free patients and healthcare providers from geographic constraints. These services also require the real-time video quality, bandwidth, and latency levels provided by 5G technology.

An aging population and epidemic levels of preventable diseases also remind us that proactive, rather than reactive, healthcare policies provide healthier, more cost-effective outcomes. Just as the IoT can be used to effectively monitor equipment and optimize maintenance intervals, predictive methods can be applied to medicine through a plethora of new IoT wearables.

The volume of data collected by these devices would be impossible for healthcare professionals to sort and analyze on their own. The computing power, artificial intelligence, and automation of hyperscale data centers helps to convert this data into actionable patient intelligence.

Connected Health Applications

Medical Data Management

With patients frequently moving between providers and locations, managing patient data is an ongoing challenge. At the same time, the sensitive, personal nature of medical records emphasizes network security and confidentiality. Simply offloading data storage to the cloud is only a partial solution. This data must be easily accessible, transferrable, and protected from unauthorized access to ensure HIPAA compliance. While 3GPP 5G standards improve encryption and authentication practices to safeguard patient privacy, hyperscale computing and AI make the data more visible and actionable for healthcare professionals and patients.

Connected health environments interested in patient safety and privacy will not tolerate latency. (Source)

Telemetry

For decades, telemetry has been used to relay vital patient data to central monitoring stations. The IoT transforms telemetry from a hospital-centric practice dependent on continuous human monitoring into an untethered network that allows customized data to be analyzed and shared in real time. Advanced AI is the key to interpreting this information to determine if and when medical intervention is needed. 5G and hyperscale also improve transmission speeds and storage capacity for important diagnostic images like MRI and CAT scans with file sizes of up to 1 gigabyte.

Online Consultations

Online medical consultations expand on the convenience of traditional phone appointments by adding face-to-face communication and real time presentation of test results and scans to the mix. For this change to be fully accepted by patients, reliable high-quality video, low latency, and high bandwidth are essential. With the telehealth market projected to increase by more than 24% per year over the next 5 years, wired internet connections alone are not enough. 5G-enabled enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) technology can deliver online consultation services to underserved areas without sacrificing connection quality, latency, or security.

AR/VR Training

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are often associated with gaming and entertainment applications, but their impact on medical training could be equally important. As the technology improves and 5G latency drops, AR and VR will transport medical students into virtual operating rooms with delicate procedures witnessed or performed without risking human or animal subjects.

Augmented reality also has tremendous potential for in-person or remote surgical procedures. 3D markers overlayed onto real time images will help surgeons to navigate between organs, blood vessels, and other anatomical features more effectively.

Remote Surgery

Remotely performed surgery is an eagerly anticipated connected health application where latency, reliability, and bandwidth requirements have potentially life or death implications. The current version of robotic surgery includes a nearby physician carefully guiding a robot to operate in lieu of human hands.

With 5G improving display resolution and reducing latency to the 1 millisecond range, remote robotic surgery or “telesurgery” will enable specialists to share their expertise globally. URLLC demands will fall squarely on edge computing locations with hyperscale computing providing the requisite horsepower behind AI rules, machine learning (ML), and big data storage.

The Future of Connected Health and Hyperscale

5G arrives at an opportune time to alleviate the performance constraints preventing breakthrough AR/VR, robotics, and wearables from fully redefining the healthcare industry. As these applications expand and evolve, the delicate balance between technology and human interaction will continue. Fully robotic surgeries or online consultations guided by advanced AI potentially improve patient outcomes, but not without the assistance of healthcare professionals assuaging the hesitancy of their patients. Hyperscale data centers will play a pivotal role by providing the intelligence to meld medical data and technology with human intuition and empathy.

As a diverse and critical 5G use case, the success of connected health depends on all elements of the RAN, data centers, and IoT performing flawlessly and harmoniously. The automated test portfolio developed by VIAVI supports all aspects of the connected health ecosystem including fiber network certification, remote data centering monitoring, and end-to-end RANtoCore™ 5G test and validation solutions. The interoperable VIAVI test suite is designed to reduce testing time, optimize optical networks, minimize latency, and ensure 100% reliability to supports SLAs.

This post is part of a five-part series exploring the Hyperscale Ecosystem and its pivotal role in next generation 5G use cases. If you missed them, previous posts include:

Part 1: Addressing the Pain Points of the Hyperscale Ecosystem

Part 2: Hyperscale Ecosystems Use Case: Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS)

Part 3: Hyperscale Ecosystems Use Case: Factory Automation

Up next in the coming weeks will be our final installment:

Part 5: Hyperscale Ecosystems Use Case: Unmanned Data Centers

Thank you for reading.

 

About The Author

Sameh Yamany, Ph.D., is Chief Technology Officer for VIAVI Solutions where he drives technology innovation and execution for the company. He is the former CEO and President of Trendium, where he led innovations in service assurance and analytics and the creation of a new paradigm in Customer Experience Assurance. Dr. Yamany's industry experience also includes his senior executive role at Tektronix Communications where he set the vision and development of the Iris wireless and wireline monitoring and troubleshooting suite of applications.

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