Now is Opportune Time for Health IT Executives to Weigh in on 5G
By Candace Stuart – Director, Communications & Public Relations
Now is the time for digital health leaders like CHIME’s membership to take a serious interest in 5G, says Ken Bradberry, senior vice president and CTO at The HCI Group. Not the gee-whiz 5G that is being hyped but rather a 5G that needs careful curating to reach its potential as a transformative technology in healthcare.
“This is the time, while the technology is still evolving,” he said. “We can influence the technology vendors and the carriers to align them with the challenges of healthcare providers.”
Congress and the administration are promoting fifth generation wireless technology as a juggernaut for economic growth and innovation. Carriers have rolled out 5G mobile services in parts of major cities like Chicago, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Boston and Dallas, and Rush University Medical Center and AT&T made headlines this year by introducing 5G in a healthcare setting. 5G’s capability to provide faster, more reliable service holds the potential to improve the quality and access to healthcare. Remote monitoring, telehealth and augmented or virtual reality to treat patients or educate clinicians are among the many possible applications that a 5G architecture might facilitate.
Bradberry sees many benefits with 5G, adding that The HCI Group and parent company Tech Mahindra view 5G as transformational. The technology may be compelling, but it won’t become fully realized without carefully evaluating costs, safety, operational considerations and the regulatory environment, Bradberry cautions. “We don’t want to take our CIOs down the path thinking they will gain all of these advantages and then find it was not well researched or thought through,” he said. “This is a good time to put rigor behind it.”
Cost is a factor as health IT executives consider 5G. Bradberry recommends first looking at how 5G’s speed and reliability can drive down costs. “We need to clearly articulate not just these great use cases that we talk about with telehealth and IOT and other things but how from an infrastructure perspective it will make a difference,” he said. Availability is also a potential constraint. Hospitals and health systems may need to weigh a more contained approach such as within a medical campus and then integrate into the larger network when the opportunity arises. With a clear understanding of the cost, value and infrastructure needs, health IT teams can identify a starting point that makes sense for their institution and then the roadmap for an extended network that could encompass clinics, ambulatory facilities, pharmacies, payers and beyond.
Earlier this year, Bradberry visited a 5G Center of Excellence in Redmond, Wash., that Tech Mahindra opened in 2018 to accelerate the rollout of 5G services. The labs include the infrastructure that a hospital or health system would need to support a 5G environment and will be used to test connected devices, including medical devices. The results from their studies will help to put some of the hype through a reality check.
“We are getting some really unique perspective,” Bradberry said. “We will have a lot more data as to how much optimization can be expected.”