5G Technology: A Revolution in Healthcare?



With countries around the world getting ready for the arrival of 5G mobile technology, industries are scrambling to understand what this means for them, and what improvements it can bring. The Healthcare and Health Insurance industries are no different. In March 2019 experts from across the globe gathered for the 14th Asia Conference on Healthcare and Insurance and exchanged their ideas and opinions on just how 5G technology might change things for them.


From hugely improved data transmission speeds to a new potential for wearable devices and healthcare data accessibility, it’s no wonder that insurers and healthcare practitioners have their eye on 5G tech.


What is 5G?

5G technology is the 5th generation of cellular mobile communication technology. 5G is predicted to provide connectivity speeds of around 10 gigabits per second (10 times faster than current 4G technology), with some experts believing that the final speeds could even reach a massive 20 gigabits per second. Not only will this allow more data to be transmitted, but due to the smaller wavelength of 5G communications, the information will move faster, reducing latency and allowing transmission of huge packets of data without the network becoming clogged.



5G applications for health insurance

With this new technology providing expanding the types and availability of data available to insurers, personalisation of insurance products to individuals will become a reality. By integrating these new sources of high-quality data into their current business models, health insurers will have new options for integration across their business, from preventative measures to more effective claims handling.


Online consultations

The term ‘connected healthcare’ is thrown around liberally these days, with virtual doctors now becoming more popular options for those in hard to reach locations or expatriates travelling the globe for business. The new data potential of 5G technology will undoubtedly push these types of service to the forefront for many more people. Reduced patient waiting times and faster and more accurate diagnoses for patients are just a few of the benefits. At the moment specialist doctors are few and far between, 5G makes them available anywhere at any time.



Wearable health devices have become more and more popular over the past five years, with all kinds of health-related data being continuously collected. From blood sugar levels to heart rate, these individual markers of health can be tracked over weeks, months and years to provide massive insight into individuals’ conditions. What 5G does to improve this is to make the transmission of this data to the necessary healthcare professionals or insurers a simple reality.


Providing more holistic health underwriting should be a priority for all medical insurers as it lowers overall costs for both the patient in terms of premium and insurers in terms of claims. 5G transmission of health data makes this a reality, not to mention the medical benefits that could be discovered in terms of early warning for health crises and identification of worrying health trends with long-term negative effects.


Remote medicine

The idea of remote medicine has been around for a while, but when a patients’ life is on the line, medical procedures must be extremely reliable. A small delay of milliseconds could ultimately be a matter of life and death when it comes to processes that are controlled remotely. As such, 5G technology will provide much-needed consistency and relatability for remote medical procedures, especially in hard to reach areas or places where broadband internet technology is still undependable.


Centralised data

5G also provides plenty of options for improving the accessibility of patient data. The idea of centralising data so that it can be accessed anywhere is one that has been around for a while but has proved challenging to implement. Increased speed of data transmission will provide a much-needed boost in efficiency and reliability for these networks, where data is always on the move, being uploaded, downloaded, changed and deleted.


Potential pitfalls of 5G

Although the potential benefits of 5G technology are huge, we all need to be aware of the limitations and be careful not to compromise good patient care and support. Data security is a necessarily hot topic and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. As we improve the possibility for data transmission and sharing, health insurers must keep their sights firmly on who has access to what data. As this data will most likely be shared across insurers and healthcare professions, it is likely that governments will also have to step in to ensure that this extremely sensitive data is appropriately regulated.


Also, although the idea of being able to access a professional opinion through technology anywhere in the world is a nice one, everyone needs to remember that these meetings can never replace personal meetings and care. Difficult to diagnose conditions, and mental health conditions, in particular, require special attention as digitally collected and transmitted health metrics may often ignore the larger picture.



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