How Networks are Changing Healthcare in a Covid World

Time Magazine states “Health doctors are worried about the unprecedented drop in emergency room visits.” ABC News reports of a dramatic drop in cancer diagnoses. Experts fear, the report says that concerns over coronavirus has led to a drop in cancer screenings. The Denver Channel reports that Covid-19 concerns have disrupted regular doctor visits for babies and kids who are delaying vaccinations and other checkups. This is only a small sample of reports citing a dramatic change in how people are managing their healthcare in a post Covid world.

Not Going is No Solution

People are delaying or otherwise putting off doctor visits because sick people are at the doctors office and they do not want to get sick during visits for routine care. As a result, health care professionals are working on new protocols and technologies to make patients feel more comfortable with well visits, screenings, vaccinations and even visits to the emergency room.

Some of these protocols include taking patient’s temperature before they enter the doctors office or clinic, requiring masks and reducing the number of patients in a waiting room. Other changes include taking advantage of new and existing network technologies to reduce in-person visits while still providing necessary health services.

How Technology is Helping

Covid-19 is driving a faster deployment of tele-health and telemedicine applications than what we would have otherwise seen. 5G and AI capabilities are coming on line to bring tele-health and remote medical applications from a curiosity to common practice. Televideo sessions with your primary physician and the use of connected diagnostic machines for remote patient monitoring require very high speed, wide bandwidth low latency communications.

5G networks will be able to provide the bandwidth, speed and low latency necessary for more in-depth medical services. Artificial Intelligence allows more granular diagnostics using a host of data points not previously available to doctors. As patients grow more comfortable with remote doctor visits and a growing number of remote services, the hope is that fear driven procrastination of well visits, diagnostic visits and even more urgent medical needs will become a problem of the past.

Transitional Issues

There will be operational issues as mobile networks transition from slower speeds and greater latency of 4G to upgraded 5G services. Some remote monitoring and HD video services may not be available until 5G services become ubiquitous. During the transitional period, however, mobile carriers will be closely monitoring network activity and managing Quality of Service metrics. Many remote medical services will be operating at the farthest edge of 4G capability so QoS management will be critical. Even as 5G becomes more widely available, the speed and availability of medical services will require diligent monitoring.

Beyond monitoring for QoS, traffic load and planning purposes, medical information is one of the most fiercely protected classes of personal information. There are many laws and regulations covering the storage, transmission and security of medical information. As more medical services migrate to on line access, network security becomes paramount to the success of remote services.