5G mobile networks may be years away, but that hasn’t stopped mobile health players from salivating over its potential — and perhaps for good reason. A newly released report from Qualcomm and the University of California, Berkeley suggests that the technology will become a “substantial enabler” of the future’s personalized health care ecosystem, and within healthcare alone will have a sales enabling effect of more than $1.1 trillion.
“This is [healthcare’s] network, they’re building this for us,” Qualcomm Life President Rick Valencia said during a recent keynote presentation at the Connected Health Conference in Boston. “This network is not just about what you think generally with new network technology — ‘It’s going to be faster, and I’ll be able to watch videos and real-time streaming wherever I am!’ That’s part of it, but also ultra-low latency and high reliability for mission-critical use cases. What more mission-critical use case can there be than healthcare?”
Outside of its eventual monetary impact, study author David J. Teece of the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley detailed examples of how 5G can enable healthcare’s transition toward personalized treatment. Among these were the capacity for continuous monitoring and processing of patients’ health metrics, improved remote diagnoses, and the powering of more immediate predictive analytics. Valencia echoed these possibilities but also noted the network’s increased capacity for data security. Going further, he alluded to the undeveloped mobile health solutions that might come when innovators can rely on their users having a continuous, uncompromised connection.
On a larger scale, Teece wrote that the network could likely be the driving force behind a more realized move away from volume-based fee-for-service models. This would primarily come from the more readily available and higher quality health informatics, he wrote, although improved outcomes with lower costs enabled by the technology will also play a role. However, fully realizing this transition will greatly depend on how public policy reacts to 5G.
“With standardization, and the desire to make wireless technology widely available, licensing is the main mechanism, or business model, by which the developers of wireless technology can be rewarded, absent government subsidies,” Teece wrote. “This puts an onus on policy makers and the courts to make sure licensing enables technology to be both developed and adopted. Public policy towards IP can impact — positively or negatively — the rate at, and extent to, which the 5G technology develops, by encouraging or retarding core innovation.”
VR stroke education
The 5G report wasn’t Qualcomm’s only digital healthcare news of the week. The tech company also announced a collaboration with virtual reality companies ForwardXP and Leap Motion that has led to a VR training application for medical practitioners and first responders.
Dubbed Think FAST, the tool walks users through the American Stroke Association’s FAST Test, which instructs responders to focus on facial drooping, arm weakness, slurred speech, time to medical help.
“VR is rapidly becoming a viable and top-of-mind method of care and treatment for medical professionals and health institutions," Valencia told MobiHealthNews in an email. "In light of this, Qualcomm worked to design the Think FAST application to help the average user intuitively and efficiently assess a potential stroke, and understand how to respond quickly in the situation. Tools like VR and other connected health applications will transform the health care industry globally, helping provide patients with more personalized and data-driven care.”
The VR demo places users in a room across from a virtual stroke patient, whom they speak with and inspect for signs of a stroke. According to Qualcomm, the technology offers an engaging and immersive resource for medical education and can sidestep educational limitations such as the need for in-classroom subjects or cadavers.
“With this particular app, you no longer need to be dependent on somebody telling you how a stroke would be like,” Hiren Bhinde, director of XR Product Management and Qualcomm Technologies, said in a demo video. “Now, you can actually visualize it by talking to the patient and saying ‘lift your hands,’ ‘look at the smile,’ or ‘say something.’ He or she are actually practicing this, so that when they are in the real world and see a patient in a similar state they will immediately say … ‘Oh, this patient is having a stroke, let’s do something about it.’"