5G networks can be ‘transformative’ for health and social care

A joint report has been launched urging government to consider a series of recommendations to ‘harness’ the capabalities of 5G networks in healthcare.

Tech UK – the tech trade body – and the Liverpool 5G Testbed, part of the UK government’s 5G Testbeds and Trials programme, have co-authored a report highlighting how 5G can support the ‘transformation of future healthcare applications and services’.

The demand for health and social care services is increasing as the population ages. Expectations of what healthcare systems should deliver are also growing, with digital technology viewed as being a key part of the solution.

Building on the experiences of the Liverpool 5G testbed, the report highlights how 5G can benefit the sector; from transforming some ways patients interact with their own healthcare management, to enabling healthcare professionals to remotely monitor patients. It also contains six recommendations to Government on how to effectively harness 5G in health and social care:

  • Accelerate the deployment of 5G to the majority of the country, enabling UK consumers and businesses to take early advantage of the benefits.
  • Support the uptake of digital health tools to the general public by a) utilising government data and communication channels to promote the benefits of digital health tools and b) reviewing how the personal budgets programme could better support the uptake of personal digital technology.
  • Foster knowledge exchange between DCMS and the Department of Health and Social Care to embed knowledge, experience and expertise on the potential of 5G into the newly formed NHSX.
  • Ensure that the new NHS England app allows the public to access data beyond that held in primary care – and promote the ability to do so.
  • Provide health and social care professionals in the community with 5G technology, particularly in rural areas with limited health and social care provision, where consumer options for getting online are also limited.
  • Ensure the NHS can capitalise on developments in AI, Genomics, 5G, and Blockchain technology.

The Liverpool 5G testbed is made up of a consortium of organisations which look at how 5G technology can reduce the digital divide, while measuring the impact on patient monitoring and support, and the management of loneliness in older adults.

Sophie Weston, Programme Manager for Communications Infrastructure, techUK, said: “Great digital connectivity is crucial for the UK and is essential to enable the adoption of enhanced technologies and applications that can help create a more open digital economy that works for everyone.

“The enhancement that 5G can bring to sectors such a manufacturing, logistics, transport, and healthcare will revolutionise our lives. We should be looking forward to the opportunities that 5G can bring and the way that this technology can help with our health, within the hospital and at home.

“techUK is delighted to be collaborating with Liverpool 5G to highlight the importance of 5G technologies and applications within health and social care.”

Rosemary Kay, Project Director, of Liverpool 5G Testbed, said: “The innovative and transformative qualities of 5G can drive much needed changes to health and social care.

“Thirty nine per cent of us will be over 65 by 2036, so more people are living with age-related conditions such as heart disease and there’s less money to treat them. In addition, by 2022 analogue services will disappear so we need to find reliable, affordable solutions to current telehealth services, by that date, if we’re to continue caring for everyone.

“These are our priorities at Liverpool 5G health and Social Care, we have created 5G-supported apps and devices that help people with ongoing conditions to live independently at home for longer, without needing a hospital stay.

“5G technology is faster, more robust, and supports more data than current options, making it perfect for supporting health devices that people rely on to stay well.”