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BT showcases 5G use cases to benefit the healthcare sector

U.K. operator BT and University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) are currently demonstrating scenarios where 5G technology could provide solutions for the healthcare sector.

BT highlighted that the technology has the potential to transform healthcare services and deliver significant cost savings by reducing the number of patient trips to hospitals. These demos are taking place following the recent launch of BT’s 5G network in Birmingham.

The demonstration is being hosted at the Medical Devices Testing and Evaluation Centre (MD-TEC) in UHB’s simulation lab located in the Institute of Translational Medicine. It also follows the U.K.’s first demonstration of a remote-controlled ultrasound scan over the 5G network at the same venue in June.

BT also said that the showcase will bring the concept of a 5G connected ambulance, in which the technology allows clinicians to remotely assess and diagnose a patient, view medical records, vital signs and ultrasounds. The demonstration depicted a paramedic working from an ambulance in an area of Birmingham being linked over the 5G network to a clinician based over two miles away.

Wearing a specially equipped VR headset, the clinician is able to visualize exactly what the paramedic sees in the ambulance, BT said. Using a joystick, they can then remotely direct the paramedic in real time to perform any necessary scans, as well as get close-up footage of the wounds and injuries of a patient. The clinician does this by speaking to the paramedic to look in a particular direction, or, in the case of a scan, sends control signals over the live 5G network to a robotic or “haptic” glove worn by the paramedic.

BT explained that the glove creates small vibrations that direct the paramedic’s hand to where the clinician wants the ultrasound sensor to be moved. This allows the clinician to remotely control the sensor position, while seeing the images in real-time.

In addition, there is a camera in the ambulance which transmits a high-definition view of the inside of the ambulance, the paramedic and the patient. Together with live feeds of the patient’s ultrasound scan, the clinician is able to recognize vital signs and view medical records in real time via the VR headset, BT said.

Fotis Karonis, CTIO and 5G executive lead for BT Enterprise, said:  “Not only is 5G capable of ultrafast speeds it has much lower latency meaning there is little to no delay when transmitting data over the network. This means things happen in ‘real time’ so this is of significant interest to the NHS because of its potential for medical applications, such as diagnostics and preventative healthcare. This capability provides efficiency opportunities for both hospital and ambulance trusts by reducing the number of referrals into hospital and patient trips.”

The executive added that BT has worked with its research partners including Ericsson, King’s College London and also with Voysys to demonstrate how 5G technology can provide digital transformation of critically important services and enable ‘real time’ collaboration.

Last  month, BT had launched its 5G mobile service for consumers and business customers in more than 20 cities and large towns across the U.K.

The service is already available in cities including London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Manchester, Edinburgh, Belfast, Coventry, Leicester and Bristol.

(Image: Wikimedia / TripodStories- AB)
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