5G and Telehealth in Nepal
5G and Telehealth in Nepal

5G is the new generation of wireless transmission technology. Mobile telecom industries are working to bring it to people all over the world. On the parallel side, smartphone manufacturers are working to bring the technology to mobile users. The interesting thing is that 5G is not just about smartphones and fast internet. It is about a lot of things, and it can empower many sectors, including health. This can help to transform telehealth in Nepal in a phenomenal way.

We know that fast internet has a lot of benefits, but 5G brings more to the table with higher interconnection and IoT. The 5th generation is not just one thing because it actually consists of a lot of technology. Therefore it takes time for full implementation. Also, there are many forms and aspects of this new technology. Mainly 5G benefits the health industry with faster speeds, low latency, IoT, cloud computing, real-time monitoring, higher connection density. These things can empower a lot of technology to improve both rural and urban telehealth services in Nepal.

Nepal still doesn’t have a good 4G LTE connection in every part of the country. Let alone 4G, we don’t have 3G in some rural places. Some places don’t even have network coverage. There are many issues, and 5G may be a utopian dream that will come after 10 years. But still, we have to figure out the possibilities because that is the inevitable technology we all will adopt. New wireless technology has a lot of positive implications in the telecom, computer, smartphone, and education industry. On top of that, we can also harness the power to improve health facilities in Nepal.

5G, Faster Network Speeds and Low Latency

Nepalese telecom companies are installing optical fiber networks across the country to improve the internet and data reach to rural parts. At the same time, the companies are also installing 4G and 3G network. These are very important, and slowly we will also move towards 5G in the future. All these things mean that people get access to a faster and better network. 5G comes with a higher transmission rate and faster network speed. In comparison, the new generation is about 100 times faster. Theoretically, we can achieve 10 Gb/s. This is a very high bandwidth, and it means blazing-fast downloads and uploads.

Latency is the next big thing that benefits from the new broadband cellular network. It is the time that takes for a request to reach the destination from the source. 5G can provide super-low latency of less than 1 ms, which is very crucial in the world of telemedicine. In the current 4G, the latency is about 20 ms. These things matter in the world of healthcare. The higher data transfer rate, low latency, high bandwidth, connectivity, and IoT provide powerful platforms for the medical science industry. Now let’s have a detailed look at this with context to Nepal.

Intelligent Medicine and Telehealth in Nepal

You may ask, “What can 5G be used for in country like Nepal?” but a more appropriate question would be what it can’t be used for. Nepal is a developing country, and the status of the healthcare system is far from good. The rural places in Nepal don’t have access to basic medicine and healthcare facilities. If there is some complication, patients are referred to big metropolitan cities and mostly Kathmandu. There is heavy centralization of infrastructure. People sometimes die due to a lack of paracetamol and health assistant. However, things are slowly changing.

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Now it is time to think one step ahead because our infrastructure should be ready for the future. The tools, equipment, and plan should focus on the inevitable future. Therefore we should envisage our strategy to be able to adapt the 5G technology. Nepali health care systems can take great help from telemedicine, telehealth, remote consultation, data-driven healthcare practice. This can help to improve diagnosis and treatment.

Nepal has a big irrationality in the number of patients and health experts. Mostly this includes experienced doctors and consultants. In this situation, we can really use computers, medical equipment, and 5G to improve the infrastructure. There are many parts to this solution, and the new technology can bring a paradigm shift. There are many places in Nepal where there is a lack of good hospitals and doctors can’t reach there easily. More experienced and senior doctors are also in demand, and they can’t be present everywhere. Sometimes patients can’t be taken to a facility easily due to transport issues. There may be some situations where visiting can be replaced with simple conferences. In some situations, a health practitioner might need a superior’s advice and consultation. This is where the 5G and intelligence medicine comes into play.

IoT, Cloud Computing and Smart Hospitals

The new 5G offers the three most important things that are needed in the healthcare sector. They are high bandwidth, low latency, and more connections. We can use high-resolution cameras, screens, and offer better communications. This can help in improving the conference between patients and doctors. In the mix, we can put AR (Augmented Reality), VR (Virtual Reality), smart care, patient history database, precision medicine.

Doctors can use 360° cameras and VR to get high resolution and a better look at the case. Both AR and VR can be used to train other professionals and also give rehabilitation training to patients. Practitioners can use 360° VR, interactive AR, and high-resolution 8K monitors to have a better look for remote diagnosis. All this requires high speed and low latency, which can be achieved by 5G.

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One of the great parts of 5G is higher device connection density and IoT. Internet of Things is a big ecosystem of interconnected devices, equipment, sensors that work with data interconnection. 4G has a limitation, and only a small number of devices can be connected to a cell tower in a given area. But, in the case of 5G, this density is big, and we can connect many devices and have faster speed and lower latency.

Medical equipment are used to do a lot of tests and the resulting files can be big. Just one person’s file can be many gigabytes. A complex case of one person can be of hundreds of gigabytes of test data. This can include results from high-resolution medical imaging, PET, CAT, MRI, CT, X-Ray, Ultrasound, etc. Using high-speed 5G, we can transfer these data from hospital to hospital or to a consultant very fast. Due to low latency, the doctor can even remotely access them and help in diagnosis.

Connected Medical Devices and Real-Time Monitoring

The new concept is helping a person before becoming sick. This is possible with the help of always connected medial devices and real-time monitoring. Using 5G, IoT devices, and wearables, we can get data and vitals of a person. This can help to provide medical care before there is a serious emergency. For example, there is a blood pressure sensor on Samsung Galaxy Note9, and it is pretty useful. Then we have a heart rate sensor and ECG function in Apple Watch. The Apple Watch Series 4 received FDA approval in 2018 as a Class II medical device. There are various other wearables in the tech world, and all of these can be helpful.

For example, Apple Watch Series 4 can measure heart rate and detect arrhythmia. This can also inform a close contact or medical professional about accidental falls using an accelerometer and gyroscope. There is also an ECG function, which can be great for heart patients. Similarly, Samsung Galaxy devices have a blood pressure measuring sensor. There are other wearables which track steps, calories, sleeping pattern, and exercise. All these data can play a crucial role in prognosis. When all IoT devices and wearables are connected to 5G, we can use all the data for better health.

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If doctors can get data on heart rate, blood pressure, and other vitals, they can help prevent future cardiovascular issues. Patients can be treated for arrhythmia earlier, and a lot of things can be saved, including money. These data can also be transferred to practitioners fast and can be given to AI for better processing. Big data, AI, and experienced medical consultants can help get better results from them and help people beforehand.

Possibilities and Challenges

There are a lot of challenges in this far cry looking future. Our topography and climate won’t prove helpful. It will take time to happen, but we should strategize about it. We already have a growing optical fiber and 4G LTE network. People are moving towards broadband internet, 5G smartphones, and 4K TVs. Nepalese people adopt technology very soon. We have many people who use smartwatches, wearables, and user IoT devices. There are experts in Nepal who work in medical technology, big data, AI, and cloud computing. We can harness our own resources and make a better health care system in Nepal.

We know it will take a lot of time, but these things should be in mind while planning. Nepal already has a lot of challenges for basic infrastructure. First, we should have roads, network towers, drinking water, uninterrupted electricity, and building and skilled workforce. Then we can have new medical equipment, IoT, and 5G. Whatever the challenges may be and however long it may take, the future is inevitable. So, these are the things that are possible due to 5G, and it can change the lives of ordinary people and transform the medical sector of Nepal.

Sources:

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  • 5G- Wikipedia
  • 5G and intelligence medicine—how the next generation of wireless technology will reconstruct healthcare? DOI: 10.1093/pcmedi/pbz020
  • Forbes- Apple Watch 4 Is Now An FDA Class 2 Medical Device: Detects Falls, Irregular Heart Rhythm
  • Telit- 4 Revolutionary Use Cases of 5G in Healthcare

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