Mobile industry is hopeful that mHealth may be the most exciting use case for 5G

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A very interesting GSMA Mobile World Live article by Chris Donkin in light of the talk I’m giving next Thursday on “Better Networks for Better Healthcare” at the 5G World conference (part of London Tech Week – check out the comprehensive mHealth guide here if you’re going).

mHealth Insights

“Connected health is one of the most exciting use cases for 5G with an impressive list of potential benefits for operators, vendors and society. However, with the regulatory complications of dealing with the healthcare industry and the grave implications should something go wrong, can it ever truly meet its potential?”

It’s interesting how this view is just being accepted by analysts. Something is going wrong:

The vast majority of Patients can’t even view their health records, yet I work with a Consultant Paediatrician (Prof Sam Lingam) who gave all his NHS Patients access to their records 30 years ago!.

Going to the Doctor for young people by and large means a 5 min chat with a stranger.

Chronic disease management is by and large a process of intensivising treatment yet no one’s asking what the Patients actually need.

“5G is a great prospect for healthcare, opening the potential for wearables to take glucose readings and remotely monitor patients, virtual appointments, and even remote surgery, but experts – and, vitally, the public – still need convincing”

Where’s the evidence that wearable devices even have the battery power to be communicating vast data volumes with mobile networks? I think it should be obvious now that we need to be thinking extreme low power (as per the wearables guru Philippe Kahn).

“At an event on 31 May at King’s College London set up by Ericsson to discuss the issue, a surgeon performed a short demonstration of an operation performed using a mocked-up 5G network, a connected glove and a robotic arm. Impressive stuff. Indeed, Prokar Dasgupta, professor of Robotic Surgery and Urological Innovation at King’s, said 5G will address reliability, security and connectivity concerns to make such remote surgery a reality, though he conceded there remains much work to be done in terms of developing the robotics themselves. However, it is a use case laden with risk. While a stalling 4G network may result in buffering of the TV programme you are trying to stream, a 5G network going down halfway through a robot performing open heart surgery is a very different story”

I think Ericsson have fallen into a trap of thinking the opportunity is in the network – just like everything  seems like it’s a nail when all you’ve got is a hammer.

I think it should be obvious that robots will be doing surgery long BEFORE 5G networks will enable surgeons to connect remotely to control a robot to do the surgery.

Speaking to Mobile World Live at the King’s event, Hanna Maurer Sibley, head of Network Products, west and central Europe at Ericsson, said the use of 5G for deep healthcare applications will require a great deal of cross-industry collaboration and was unlikely until at least 2030″

The way things are going (eg. with Google Fi, Apples software SIM offering embedded connectivity, etc) citizens won’t even have a relationship with mobile network operators in 2030.

“If the liability issues and technical bugs are ironed out, maybe by 2033 we’ll all be under the virtual knife”

The mobile industry needs to stop propelling dangerous myths like this and start helping the medical device industry realise everything is converging to the smartphone. The solution to liability and technical bugs lies in embedded connectivity. 


Join us at the 5G World Futurist Summit, 13-15 June at ExCel London

About David Doherty
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