Health and social care in the UK can benefit from the roll-out of 5G and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, according to new research from Vodafone, a parent company of South Africa’s Vodacom.
A poll of 2,000 people, carried out by Opinium on behalf of Vodafone has found strong support for many of the new possibilities digital technology opens up in the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) and social care systems.
The research discovered that the majority of the UK’s public wants NHS to use 5G and IoT applications.
The Possibilities: How Technology Can Transform Healthcare
Remote assisted surgery and training
5G’s high capacity and low latency (reducing the delay to less than 10 milliseconds making the transfer a near real-time interaction) means that it can enable surgeons to use augmented reality (AR) technology to provide remote expert guidance on surgery without needing to be in the same operating theatre – or even the same country.
AR technology allows surgeons to interact with their colleagues remotely: via AR video feed, their hands can be superimposed on the patient’s anatomy to give guidance during the operation, and they can overlay sketches and anatomical diagrams for reference. The same technology can be used to carry out training remotely, with students able to access teaching in real time from expert teachers who are not able to be physically in the same room as them. In both cases, the technology makes it easier to connect clinicians and access expertise from around the world.
Drones can be used to transport vital medical assets including organs for transplant, medical equipment and drugs both more quickly and more cheaply than by courier.
5G connectivity can link paramedics working with a patient in an ambulance with a hospital clinician using high-resolution video and tools that share the patient’s medical records as well as live clinical data such as heart rate. Clinicians can examine the patient remotely, assess symptoms, perform initial diagnosis and prescribe urgent treatment that the paramedics can carry out before the patient even arrives at the hospital. Ambulance staff can use augmented technology (AR) support with AR glasses to follow specific treatment plans. The information sent to the hospital enables staff there to prepare the right treatment before arrival and save time – and lives.
Heat detection cameras
The Vodafone Heat Detection Camera can screen the body temperature of patients, visitors and staff to help provide reassurance at a time of concern about COVID-19 infection, but also beyond. Intelligent thermal and HD camera technology is used to discreetly and accurately screen up to eight people at a time and 100 people per minute.
Social and technological prescribing
Technology such as wearable devices and monitoring systems can help people to stay healthy by living more active lifestyles, and support those with chronic conditions. And as a Vodafone report last year showed, technology can also help alleviate loneliness in older and more vulnerable people by keeping them in touch with their family and friends. Prescribing schemes that enable GPs and other health service practitioners to prescribe the use of wearables and other technology can support health and independent living.
In Greece, the Vodafone Foundation Telemedicine Programme uses mobile technology combined with next generation medical devices to provide high-quality specialised healthcare, regardless of location. Using tablets and medical equipment, GPs and rural doctors are able to transfer their examinations to medical specialists for their expert opinion. The programme is implemented in 100 remote areas, covering a population of 500,000 people.
Vodafone’s Connected Living helps people with care needs to receive tailored and personalised support. It uses a range of intuitive and user-friendly IoT devices to make everyday activities – such as household tasks and socialising – easier. These devices are controlled by a bespoke app, called Vodafone MyLife, helping the user to control their own environment with greater independence.