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Why next-gen mobile networks will be a boost to healthcare.

 

With faster and more stable data connections, telemedicine—which provides medical diagnoses and patient care remotely and electronically—will reshape healthcare. For practitioners, next-gen mobile networks make way for improved education and collaboration. And for patients around the globe? Smarter and more accessible care, regardless of location, is on the horizon. Consider the possibilities for patients living in remote locations if more specialists performed care virtually and surgical robots were mainstream.

Danny Goel, surgeon and CEO of Precision OS, co-founded an immersive medical education technology company that leverages cutting-edge innovations like VR to deliver more engaging surgical education. For Goel, the fact that telemedicine enables care and expertise from anywhere in the world represents huge opportunities for caregivers, patients and the entire healthcare space.

“This means several things to me as a parent, a son, as well as a physician,” he said. “In all roles, I see the future of medicine to be very bright. Being able to collaborate while providing and/or receiving the most up-to-date care regardless of geographic location helps to equilibrate the healthcare disparity that exists both within and outside of developed countries.”

There are numerous examples of doctors using telemedicine and harnessing robotics to deliver healthcare services. And according to Goel, this trend, though now in its infancy, is expected to take shape in transformative ways.

“Technological advancements intersecting with medicine have allowed us to experience what others have termed the ‘great inflection of medicine,’” he said. “As a surgeon, it’s an exciting time as the digital ecosystem is rapidly growing. Connecting this network will be a major contribution of 5G. Relaying surgical experiences and techniques to other segments of the world in a reliable and secure medium will allow a major exchange of ideas and exponential collaboration and research.”

What most excites surgeons like Goel about high-speed, low-latency mobile networks is the inherent capability to receive real-time feedback, elevating the notion of deliberate practice for education and training to a whole new level. In short, said Goel, using 5G networks to help transfer high-quality content on mobile platforms will continue to be a catalyst for more widespread adoption of telemedicine.

No longer limited by geography.

While robotic surgery attracts much of the attention, there’s an array of fascinating 5G-fueled benefits to consider—particularly for people living in remote locations around the world. With nearly 8 billion people on earth, the ratio of physicians to patients varies widely geographically. As Goel points out, in certain parts of North America, some graduating physicians are unable to find work due to limited resources. “This asymmetry of healthcare access has a significant socioeconomic impact on the current and future generations,” he said. “With the advent of robotic surgery and remote physician access, seamless networking will help the cause.”

For instance, some U.S. veterans must drive an average of 25 to 50 miles for care, leaving them with few options for speedy, adequate services. In response, the VA turned to telemedicine to ease the burden, connecting veterans at outpatient facilities or at home to a variety of personnel including doctors, nurses, social workers and crisis hotline staff.

But what similar initiatives mean for the delivery of care to remote parts of the world remains to be seen. For Goel, as virtual services and robotic surgery grow more common, training opportunities—“providing education on a scale that has previously not existed”—and affordability could improve significantly.

Health data is with us 24/7.

Also shaping the future of healthcare? Wearables and the data they generate. Goel even includes the smartphone as a wearable, since it can monitor movement, heart rate through a smartwatch and sleeping patterns.

“It essentially could be my collective physician, athletic trainer and therapist all in one device,” Goel said. “I think we are only at the tip of the spear with true wearables. There’s so much to learn from human behavior and patterns of habit that will educate us on many healthcare initiatives that can be explored.”

Goel believes that data-generating wearables, fueled by faster mobile networks, may also inspire the design of future healthcare innovations—potentially steering large populations toward health initiatives not previously considered.  

“We will have the ability to create a more human approach for many things, as wearables will allow unaltered observation of human behavior and physiology,” he said. “Advancing in this space will be very positive for global health in general.”

Originally published on Forbes.com.

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