In yet another attempt by telecom players to nudge 5G wireless tech into healthcare, Verizon has partnered with Emory Healthcare to launch a 5G-focused innovation lab.
Emory is an academic medical system with 11 hospitals and 250 physician practices. The Emory Healthcare Innovation Hub, for its part, works to commercialize technologies that improve patient care and provider experiences.
Under the terms of the new agreement, the EHIH will test Verizon’s 5G ultra wideband service which, according to its launch announcement, makes the site the nation’s first 5G healthcare innovation lab. In addition to providing 5G to EHIH, Verizon will provide network and security support, project management, consulting and managed infrastructure services.
Among the first steps EHIH will take with Verizon is to test how 5G could enhance the performance of augmented and virtual reality application for medical training, enable telemedicine and remote patient monitoring and make diagnostic and imaging capabilities available in ambulances.
This announcement is just one of a string of recent news involving 5G healthcare plans. For example, in February, the VA’s Palo Alto Health Care System announced that it will transform one of its facilities into an entirely 5G-enabled hospital. Earlier this year, USC announced that it planned to partner with AT&T to build a smart cancer facility integrating 5G and multi-access edge computing.
It seems obvious that we’ll be getting further announcements regarding the deployment of 5G by providers in the future. After all, given that it offers faster data rates, higher-capacity networks and lower latency than previous technologies, there’s a lot about it to like.
What isn’t clear, however, despite frenetic marketing efforts that avoid the question, is whether 5G-powered networks solve problems that cannot be addressed more efficiently by existing technologies. In particular, I think it’s telling that the string of announcements addressing 5G efforts in healthcare don’t make efforts to compare its performance directly with WiFi networking.
Also, though it’s difficult to get an apples-to-apples comparison between the two technologies, it seems almost guaranteed that 5G technology is far more expensive to deploy. My guess is that EHIH is getting the service at a considerable discount which won’t be available to even another early adopters.
All told, while I understand why EHIH is interested in playing with 5G options, let’s not mistake it for a technology poised to make an immediate impact on the healthcare industry. Both the telcos and healthcare industry players have a long way to go before 5G becomes a standard option for wireless connectivity.