Telemedicine Today: How 5G Can Help Take It to the Next Level

Telemedicine and remote healthcare have been around ever since technology could support them. The past year and half in particular have shown just how critical telemedicine and remote healthcare can be. With countries in lockdown and high-risk patients avoiding as much contact as possible, anything that could be handled remotely was preferable.

But telemedicine is not only crucial in times of pandemic. For many of us (COVID notwithstanding), the idea of remote doctor appointments and health monitoring is simply a matter of convenience. We can spend less time in doctors’ offices and hospitals and more time enjoying life.

However, in a large part of the world, patients are simply too remote to visit a doctor for a routine checkup. For some, anything less than a dire need would be insufficient reason to make the 50- or 100-mile trip to the nearest healthcare facility. The more remote health services that telemedicine can enable, the better and more frequently these patients can receive their required treatments.

Types of Telemedicine

One of the first successful applications of telemedicine was wearable health monitoring systems. This allows for earlier discharge of patients from hospitals because they can be monitored from the comfort of their home, while their doctor receives the necessary data to advise and proceed accordingly.

This is also very useful for those with chronic health conditions. Rather than requiring frequent checkups to track their condition, wearables allow for both more convenient and more consistent health monitoring.

During the pandemic, we have also seen a sharp uptick in remote health consultations. Often consisting of a simple phone call or video chat, this has been a critical addition to our healthcare system during this time.

Telecommunications – The Infrastructure Behind-the-Scenes

When it comes to telemedicine, most people think of wearables or a video call with their doctor. But there is another player here, without which none of this could be possible. Whenever a piece of wearable technology uploads a user’s health data to the cloud, or a doctor is on a video call with their patient, or a technician sends important (and usually especially large) files from a patient’s recent scan over to the specialist – in each case, the underlying telecommunications network is critical to the success or failure of telemedicine.

In all three cases mentioned above, the common denominator is a need to move a great deal of information from point A to point B in a timely manner, and with the highest level of data integrity.

That means a need for a robust and reliable high-bandwidth low-latency network. As the need and desire for telemedicine grows, legacy networks will not be able to handle the necessary throughput or provide quick enough reaction time to support real-time procedures.

The new 5G networks that are being developed and deployed, on the other hand, have the potential to support our growing telemedicine needs. Ethernity is providing critical technology from the 5G cell tower to the network core, which will help enable 5G to meet these demands. In particular, Ethernity offers a complete router data plane on FPGA to allow offloading of 5G applications, upgrading networks to 5G performance and providing the required lower latency by implementing the forwarding and routing on a SmartNIC instead of on a server.

Just as the earth provides a framework and nutrients for all that grow from it, so too the 5G network offers telemedicine an enhanced infrastructure from which it can thrive. This is just one reason we are proud to support and enable 5G technology.