The 5G revolution: How hospitals are tapping into wireless solutions to enhance patient care

As the next generation of internet speed races full force ahead, the healthcare industry must embrace 5G and the value it brings to wireless clinical applications — such as telehealth — that are transforming the way healthcare is delivered.

Hospitals and health systems are increasingly adopting telehealth and IoT devices, which requires shifting their aging IT infrastructure and unreliable in-building wireless services to more updated models.

During a July 15 webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by Strategic Venue Partners, industry experts discussed the benefits wireless networks provide to the healthcare industry and how 5G will help transform operations.

The speakers were:

  • Justin Marron, CEO of Strategic Venue Partners
  • Patrick Rhatigan, national business development manager at RF Connect

SVP works with health systems to set up and build wireless communication infrastructure access such as Wi-Fi, distributed antenna systems and fiber optic cables, which offer the fastest internet speeds, while RF Connect offers in-building wireless use support.

Five takeaways from the webinar:

1. Wireless is the 'fourth utility'. Massive growth is coming in the wireless space, and it is cementing its place as the fourth utility, behind water, electricity and cable TV, Mr. Marron said. Mobile devices have transformed into computers over which users can talk, run businesses and applications, and communicate with each other.

2. Wireless connection is critical in healthcare. In response to the pandemic and shifting IT and healthcare spaces, wireless connectivity has become a mission critical infrastructure for modern healthcare venues. Many hospitals are seeing record patient volume due to COVID-19, and digital connections allow for social distancing, which could help slow the spread of the virus.

3. The legacy way of building and funding wireless infrastructure is no longer effective. From the healthcare perspective, providers have been faced with viewing communication systems as a capex situation only, or an expense the business generates only to benefit from in the future. In addition, it’s becoming more difficult to have this cost offset by third-party connectivity partners. However, Mr. Marron points out there is a better solution. In fact, healthcare operations should be treated like other as-a-service applications.

"If you think about your managed systems, everything is a service in healthcare," he said. "My view is always that communication infrastructure should be treated as such, no different than the Epic [EHR]. We think hospitals' and health systems' evolving infrastructure, including distributed antenna systems and public safety systems, should be treated similarly where there's a long life cycle management to the process."

4. 5G will be a difference maker. Next generation connectivity will strengthen the patient experience and analytics by empowering patients to manage their healthcare with faster, easier access to their data; powering remote, real-time monitoring tools that allow clinicians to monitor local patients while also attending to more remote patients; and enhancing physicians' abilities to deliver improved diagnoses and less invasive treatments through augmented reality, virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

"5G basically gives us a vehicle to push us toward those improvements in a much faster fashion than what we would achieve on our own," Mr. Rhatigan said. "Telemedicine is one of the biggest parts of this because 5G connection and speeds support offsite care facilities or remote physicians or patients through virtual care."

5. CBRS delivers opportunities today. Citizens Broadband Radio Service, or CBRS, is private LTE that can enable healthcare enterprises to build their own private 5G networks without needing to rely on other wireless carriers. Since the onset of the pandemic, RF Connect and SVP have supported wireless connectivity in tents at parking lot COVID-19 test centers because hospital Wi-Fi often spanned only 300 feet. Using CBRS and high-powered radios, the companies are able to set up a connection across entire hospital parking lots and even support MiFi devices and wireless routers in some instances to communicate with the user equipment, whether phones, computers or scanners.

"SVP is equipped to design, deploy and manage bespoke wireless systems for CBRS, Wi-Fi, fiber, DAS, Public Safety, IPTV, you name it," Mr. Marron said. "We're here to install this critical infrastructure and have a long-term view on it and be your partner. We provide the overall tech solutions so it's 100 percent turnkey."

Click here to view the webinar.

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