Reports over the recent years have seen ambulances experiencing delays, waiting to get into the hospital, patients being treated in car parks by nurses and hospitals actually asking patients to stay away from the A&E department unless it is urgent. A recent BT demonstration which took place at the University Hospital in Birmingham, involved an acting emergency department consultant advising a paramedic who was situated just under two miles away in a 5G connected ambulance. Using virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) headsets, the consultant gave information on the “patient” directly to the paramedic, saving them traveling to the A&E department.
BT’s demonstration seemingly provides an alternative for procedures that can be done safely outside the A&E department. “The characteristics of 5G mean it will provide many advantages, including speeding up diagnoses for patients and potentially reducing the number of ambulance and A&E department visits,” explains Baker. “In particular, being able to perform diagnoses remotely means a doctor or clinician could determine an appropriate care pathway without necessarily having to see someone in hospital, responding directly to the waiting times issue as above.
“In addition, by linking hospital clinicians with community practitioners and paramedics in real-time using the power of 5G, we can improve the first point of triage,” she continues. “This can reduce unnecessary hospital admissions and ensure patients get the appropriate treatment upon arrival at hospital–all by diagnosing earlier in the field. This is particularly beneficial for the elderly, frail or for infants needing urgent medical treatment.”
According to the GSMA, 5G is expected to be fully deployed in the next three years and could account for up to 1.2 billion connections by 2025, with networks covering one-third of the world’s population. This next-generation network is expected to enable robust real-time connectivity, providing high speeds and low latency, according to Vodafone.
But is 5G feasible for the ambulance service?
“To truly address the feasibility of 5G within the emergency services, we must address the question of infrastructure,” explains Ian West, head of telecoms, media and technology, KPMG U.K. “We will require coverage across the region at a high degree of reliability; these are truly life and death situations, where a dropped line or a frozen screen could make all the difference.
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