Digital health relies on advances in technology, and one of the most exciting prospects for the virtual hospital model is the advent of the 5G standard in the United States. 5G is the “next level” in how data is wirelessly transmitted and is the successor to the current 4G standard in place around the country.
Despite the promise that 5G brings with it, and the usefulness it presents to organizations like the Medically Home Group, there are still some hurdles to overcome. As a result, there’s much uncertainty over this powerful new technology.
What Is 5G?
In the simplest terms, 5G gives wireless devices access to the same fast speeds and huge volumes of data that people currently enjoy on wired, high-speed Internet connections for home and work. In the same way that an employee or someone at home can easily watch high-resolution video or download lots of information quickly, mobile devices like phones and tablets would be able to do the same under the 5G standard.
This is promising for virtual hospitals as medical data is often large requiring substantial bandwidth for transmissions. If wireless medical devices benefited from the 5G standard, much more information could be sent more quickly and reliably allowing for better decisions to be made based on more accurate, recent medical data.
The Big Issues With 5G and A Virtual Hospital
Major considerations impair the rapid adoption of 5G in America. One is range. The current 4G standard, when a signal tower is erected, has a range of about ten miles. The range of a 5G tower is only 1000’. At this writing, 7000 4G towers service the entire USA. For 5g, 10,000 would be needed just in Manhattan. Currently commercial carriers in both Minneapolis and Chicago are experimenting with it.
Another major concern is security and today the leader in 5G infrastructure is China. Chinese companies like Huawei were offering their lower cost, 5G infrastructure to be used in building 5G networks throughout the USA but handing control of a major communication infrastructure technology to a foreign power does not seem prudent.
The current trade war with China and issues with Huawei over spying and corporate espionage make the prospect of using less expensive Chinese technology less likely. This also will impair the rollout of 5G as the US looks to the more expensive American tech in exchange for security.