Fifth Generation (5G) cellular is the most emotionally charged technology of my career and, for whatever reason, has struck a nerve across the globe. Do you remember the news showing activists picketing the streets and vigilantes sabotaging 5G cellular towers? I distinctly remember headlines suggesting anywhere from 5G spreading Coronavirus to children made sick by 5G radiation to it’s going to disrupt your pacemaker. I certainly am not a physician and take no position on the potential for RF frequencies to harm your health. I also do not choose to wear a tinfoil hat while asking someone to hold my beer. Well, maybe the beer part, but in all seriousness, it’s quite a phenomenon that has transpired with this evolving cellular technology.
Speaking of phenomenon, could 5G, currently, be the most overhyped technology to date? We in the tech industry tend to benchmark and market technologies to the absolute best case and sometimes unobtainable real-world statistics. I can imagine the advertisements for 7G, which will indeed claim it will provide 1.6 Jigowats of power to change every aspect of your life. The fact is 5G is complex, especially since its three different spectrums under one 5G tech banner: the mid & low band and mmWave. The claims of 1 millisecond latency and up to 30 gigabits per second of throughput may be possible in control conditions. For example, sitting in front of a mmWave radio positioned every few meters with little physical obstructions to make that reality. Not to say this is not possible, but have you personally experienced any noticeable increase in breakneck bandwidth on your mobile device? Did the shift from 4G to 5G at the top of your cell give you a warp-speed experience? At the same time, when we talk about hype, have there ever been more commercials for any new technology? The reality is that cellular providers in the US spent over an estimated $100 billion on the new 5G technology licensing and rollout. With that level of investment, it would only make sense to heavily advertise the new “lightspeed” network to encourage widespread adoption. I am certainly not knocking the carriers, as without this type of huge investment, we would still be waiting to connect with our 9600 baud modems making that terrible screeching noise only to take all day to download a single image.
Ok, so I am always full of satire, but what does this have to do with healthcare? Throughout my journey in the healthcare industry, I have been fortunate enough to witness a tremendous technological revolution. While government funding and incentives have certainly played a role, it’s hard for me not to reflect on my own experiences and think about the stark contrast between the healthcare my grandparents received and the care that is available today. In the past, all medical appointments were in-person and scheduled over the phone or in the office. Prescriptions were written on sticky note-sized paper resembling hieroglyphics that the local pharmacy somehow translated. Fast forward: I just had a telemedicine doctor visit where in a matter of minutes, we could speak to our family physician without leaving the comfort of our own bedroom and had medicine delivered the same day. Quite a change in the patient experience! With this healthcare evolution, it’s no doubt that cellular technologies will help continue to evolve the advancement of medicine. Improvements in bandwidth with lower latency may not meet the hyped marketing statistics today, but I have no doubt the progress will continue. So, how will 5G help solve the healthcare challenges of today? The answer is we are not exactly where we want to be today, but it sure is promising. Here are my top three healthcare advancements that I believe could become a reality with the implementation of 5G or future generations of wireless technology:
We may not have fully realized or harnessed the power of 5G technologies yet, but there is no doubt that the advancement of these technologies has the potential to solve problems in healthcare. I am very excited about what the future may hold and the countless use cases that could help shape how we receive care. That’s all for now, but I look forward to sharing other insights on healthcare topics soon. Thanks for reading!