Nokia on saving lives with private wireless (Reader Forum)
Digital technologies present many exciting opportunities for improving patient outcomes. Remote monitoring with medical sensors, shared access to patient records, personalized care plans, remote robotic surgery — and, the list goes on.
However, something important is missing in many of these lists: rock-solid, secure (private) wireless. Without it, the digital, life-saving transformation of healthcare won’t reach its full potential. In the context of the hospital or clinic, where cabled Ethernet networks are ubiquitous, much can, and arguably has been done, to adopt digital technologies without the support of decent wireless.
But saving lives doesn’t begin and end in the OR. From first responders to emergency rooms, to labs, specialists and home care, healthcare is a continuum of services that is, ideally, centered on the patient from start to finish.
The next big step in the digital transformation of healthcare will require knitting together these separate capabilities and the creation of real-time health systems, or RTHS. But to get to RTHS will require all the parts of the healthcare system to be linked and working together for the optimum patient outcomes. This requires ultra-reliable, ultra-broadband, and ultra-secure wireless connectivity.
Of course, there is more going on in the evolution to full-blown RTHS than simply industrial-strength wireless connectivity. There are governance and compliance around safety, security and patient confidentiality, to name a few. And there are other factors, such as the digitization of many of today’s non-digital operational systems through the integration of internet of medical things (IoMT).
Systems for positive patient identification (PPID) have to be improved with biometrics, and artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have to augment diagnostics, disease prediction and improved administration and operations.
But there also has to be a way to pull all of this together in real-time with a communications system that is robust enough to support high-bandwidth and low latency applications. And it has to provide impenetrable security and mobile coverage of both the local and wide area networks (LAN and WAN).
While Wi-Fi serves the general office IT environment well, it requires a leap of imagination to contemplate its use in mission-critical hospital campus applications. While you will find Wi-Fi vendors that claim upcoming modifications to the standard will make it suitable for these advanced applications, this is an uphill battle.
Wi-Fi is great for what it is, a best-effort, relatively insecure way to connect to the best-effort, not very secure public internet. It is simply not a mission-critical, life-saving technology.
For that, industries such as healthcare need more advanced wireless technologies that have been developed by 3GPP. The most advanced of these is 5G, which is being rolled out in many markets over the next few years. Versions of LTE (e.g., MulteFire) are being made available that use unlicensed spectrum.
And, in some jurisdictions, governments are releasing spectrum for the use of private networks based on “LTE/4.9G today, 5G tomorrow.” Although LTE has been around for over a decade, LTE-advanced or 4.9G is more recent. It actually represents the next-to-last step in the evolution of mobile, cellular wireless technologies to 5G.
As a result, it already contains many of the characteristics of 5G that will be key to RTHS such as high capacity, low latency and support for low-powered IoT sensors. In other words, although full-blown 5G is a few years away, LTE/4.9G private wireless networks are currently well able to support the first stages in the digital transformation of healthcare.
On the security front, LTE is now the chosen wireless technology for next-generation emergency services in several countries, including the U.S. and the UK. This decision was made after extensive testing for reliability and security. In a decade of public deployments around the world, no LTE network has ever suffered a security breach.
There are different ways to deploy private wireless solutions depending on where you are operating, because countries are regulating spectrum differently. Organizations, could engage the local mobile service provider or a third-party wireless service provider to manage it for them.
Alternatively, a regional health authority, for example, might license spectrum to be used by all the participants in health delivery for that area. It is possible in the first example to establish premises-based edge clouds that keep confidential data off the public part of the network.
With 5G, separate network slices can securely wall-off that part of the network supporting RTHS from any other users or applications. Being at heart a mobile technology, LTE/5G has the ability to support every aspect of patient care, allowing remote diagnostics and monitoring of patients being transported in super-ambulances and, even, helicopters.
It can bring expert knowledge to wherever the patient needs it, whether on the move or in remote locations short, or even devoid, of medical services. Because LTE is now pervasive in most countries, it is ideal for remote monitoring and consultations. With the arrival of 5G, we will also see support for augmented and virtual reality applications, as well as increased use of HD video.
As a result, the digital transformation of healthcare will generate improved outcomes and save lives. It will also put patients back at the center of care, and overcome many of the silos that currently get in the way of treating patients holistically.
The key to making this possible is ubiquitous, reliable and secure connectivity that is able to surround patients and provide them with the full capabilities of healthcare professionals — anytime and anywhere.
Karl Bream is the Vice President and Head of Strategy, Portfolio, and Alliances for Nokia Enterprise. Karl sets the group strategy and prioritizes its resources for the fast-growing enterprise networking and industrial Internet opportunity. In addition, Karl develops the portfolio and partner ecosystem that is required to create value for enterprise and industrial clients.
Prior to his current role, Karl was the Vice President of Internet of Things (IoT) Strategy for Nokia where he guided the company in developing its IoT portfolio.Karl has also served as Senior Partner and Vice President of Corporate Strategy at Alcatel-Lucent, and has held in sales and marketing, engineering, and mergers and acquisitions for AT&T, Avaya, and Lucent Technologies.
He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from George Washington University and an MBA from The Stern School at New York University.