Whether you’re for it or against it, there’s no doubt that 5G is transforming healthcare and even more so, digital health.

5G is the fifth generation of cellular wireless technology touting a new era of digitalisation and connectivity, between everything and everyone. Its potential to transform how healthcare is delivered is vast, thanks to its ability to provide networking reliability, high speeds, and support of many connected devices. Once fully deployed, 5G has the capacity to impact and enable medical and health innovation in different areas including the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), artificial intelligence (AI), decision support tools, telehealth, remote medical learning, and remote patient monitoring. As a result, we will see advancements and improvements in patient services and treatments and a booming digital health economy.

One could say that the realisation and adoption of 5G connectivity telecommunications standards is one of the principal enablers for the digital health revolution. This revolution in global healthcare will come together with the revolutionisation of global connectivity and interconnectivity.

As I have discussed before, the future of healthcare will strongly be influenced and driven by digital transformation enabled by radically interoperable data and open, secure platforms. It’s also obvious that there is likely to be more of an emphasis on sustaining health (being proactive) rather than simply responding to illness (being reactive).

The increasing number of connected smart devices means that healthcare is rapidly moving towards a decentralised system allowing for a more patient-centric care model and a shift from healthcare to home care. The vastly expanding virtual environment associated with the healthcare sector, means that it will drastically benefit from 5G and its associated advance technologies. This increasing dependence on wearable and remote diagnostics and treatments, makes 5G essential for reliable and secure service provision.

Moving to a decentralised system will result in a significant increase in data and subsequent data handling and processing. Furthermore, the reduced latency and increased speed of 5G will make the capture of real-time data much faster and more robust. This will better serve acute home-based care, telehealth and mobile health services, and connected hospital devices. It will also allow for the success of more complex health programs and analytics tools, such as virtual reality, gamification, robotics, and the smart home.

But don’t think that 5G can work alone. The data generated by these rising technologies will need equally powerful tools and platforms to organise, interpret and draw insights from them — and AI is critical in this journey. Thanks to 5G, volumes of patient data can be aggregated from multiple sources in a timely manner. Then, the use of AI and analytics turns complex and multiple sources of information into usable insights, including clinical decision support tools, personalised health solutions and show the practitioner how to efficiently provide care across the ecosystem.

The takeaway message here is that by combining 5G with other leading-edge technologies and platforms, we will be able to create the opportunity to transform many aspects of the provision of patient care while nurturing the emergence of a new healthcare ecosystem – one that will be more connected, more intelligent, and more efficient in its use of resources than what is currently being provided.